Sent by Katy Wells
Based in Shenfield
My name is Toni Ball and I am an independent travel consultant based in Brentwood, Essex.
I have over 25 years of travel experience and have been fortunate to visit some beautiful places.
So where have I been?
I have travelled to the Far East and Australia, the Middle East including Egypt, Oman and Dubai, the Caribbean and Mexico plus the Maldives and Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. I have also visited some amazing cities like New York, Rome, Venice and Paris. Skiing is another passion of mine and I have sampled the slopes in Europe and Colorado.
Last year I visited Sicily and California and most recently Malaysia and Borneo. Check out my journals!
These days people often look to the internet to book their holidays to save themselves the hassle of visiting a travel agent or to get the best price but as a Travel Counsellor I am able to offer you a truly personal service and do all the research for you.
I have access to over 400 approved suppliers and along with Travel Counsellors' award winning technology and my personal expertise, I am able to uniquely package holidays at competitive rates, which means you get the best deal available, whatever your budget. Plus your holiday will be fully financially protected.
My business and reputation are based on providing my clients with the highest possible levels of customer service and honest advice.
I offer a bespoke, personal service that is tailor made to you - whether it be a full package holiday, a cruise, flights or accommodation only, weddings, honeymoon or even business travel.
So whatever your holiday requirements please do not hesitate to get in touch.
I look forward to hearing from you!
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
25 October 2017
We flew with Turkish airlines via Istanbul to Kuala Lumpur. On arrival we were met and transferred to the four-star Traders Hotel which is located in downtown Kuala Lumpur. This hotel has a great central location and a fab rooftop pool and bar which serves drinks and plays funky music into the small hours. After a great night’s sleep, we took a half day walking tour around Kuala Lumpur before having lunch at the beautiful Majestic Hotel. If you are looking for luxury and a quiet colonial feel, this is the perfect choice. Our last stop was the Shangri La hotel. This five-star hotel has a central location and offers guests a shuttle service downtown. The next day we took a 2.5-hour flight over to Borneo and transferred to the beautiful Shangri La Rasa Ria Resort. This hotel is set on a stunning beach with the rainforest canopy as a backdrop. It offers guests a wealth of facilities including golf, bird watching and even has a 450m zipwire! The hotel has two separate wings - garden or ocean wing. Both have separate pool areas and the ocean wing offers guests a larger room plus an exclusive restaurant, upgraded room amenities, free minibar and afternoon cocktails. Whilst staying at the Rasa Ria, we visited a cultural centre and learnt about the indigenous people of Borneo. This trip was both inspiring and informative. We saw replicas of their houses and watched demonstrations of cooking and dancing. We also visited the Gaya Island Resort which is reached by a short boat transfer. This five-star retreat offers guests privacy in an eco-friendly exclusive setting. The rooms are all located high up in the rainforest canopy on stilts. The hotel has a small pool and beach and runs its own conservation project. The following day we visited Kinabalu National Park. Nature lovers will enjoy the Botanical Gardens which has over 1,500 different species of orchid plus many indigenous species. We did a short hike through the jungle and enjoyed a canopy rope walk, overlooking Mount Kinabalu. Our last night was spent at the Shangri La Tanjung Aru Resort. Its location makes it perfect for both business and leisure travellers and the hotel offers many different room combinations to suit all requirements. It also has its own waterpark and kids club. Just off the coast of the hotel are some small islands where guests can enjoy snorkelling and diving, plus jungle walks and ziplining or even an underwater walk along the ocean floor. This hotel has all the amenities you would expect from a resort hotel whilst being only 10 minutes from Kota Kinabalu. We has an amazing time in Malaysia and I will definitely be returning to this part of the world to visit the orangutans which, due to time restraints, we were not able to visit this time. I have definitely fallen in love with Borneo!
30 November 2016
I am lucky enough to have just returned from an educational trip to California and have to say have been totally blown away by this destination. California has something to offer for everyone, from hiking, walking, golf and cycling for the more active to beautiful beaches if you just walk to relax. Plus with an average of 325 days of sunshine per year! We flew direct to Los Angeles with Air New Zealand and arrived to pick up our hire cars for the week. Our first destination was the Loews Hotel in Hollywood Los Angeles which was located in a fantastic position to explore the destination and around a two hour drive from the airport. We hired a tour guide to show us some of the sights which was around $20 for a 1.5 hour tour and well worth the money. There are also bus tours available which is a great way to see the city. Before departing for Santa Barbara we had a site inspection at the W Hotel which was very contemporary and a personal favourite of mine. The rooms were all individual and the suites in particular were worth the upgrade if you can afford it. After a three hour drive we arrived in Santa Barbara and checked into the Harbor View Hotel. This 4 star hotel is located right on the beach front and overlooks the pier. As far as locations go this hotel was hard to beat and is fantastic value for money. It's a family run hotel and still retains that personal touch. If you prefer a more central location the Canary Hotel is located in the right in the centre of town and close to all the local shops and amenities whilst only being a 15 minute stroll to the beach. For anyone who likes their wine Santa Barbara is home to the 'Urban Wine Trail' which has over 25 local wineries offering tasting sessions to visitors and all can be reached on foot. Santa Barbara still retains the feel of a sleepy seaside town and all the buildings are low rise which helps to maintain this ambience. Another great trip was the Land/sea adventure which gives you a tour of the town before taking to the water! It is not unusual to see seals, sea lions, dolphins and even whales at certain times of the year. After leaving Santa Barbara our next stop was Santa Monica but first we had a quick stop in Malibu to take a few pictures on our way. It was an easy drive with fantastic views of the coast along the way. We stayed at the Le Meridien Delphina Hotel in Santa Monica which was a fairly small hotel located about a 20 minute walk from the main downtown area. It is 5 star and has great facilities for guests such as free bikes available to guests to use and is a great option if you prefer to be slightly away from the noise and traffic of the main strip. For those who prefer to be right in the centre of everything you can't get a better location than the Loews Hotel. Set right on the beach and almost next to the pier this 5 star hotel was my absolute favourite and had everything a 5 star guest would be looking for with contemporary bedrooms and suites, some with open fire pits all decorated in a New England style with lots of bleached wood. Santa Monica itself is much bigger and livelier than Santa Barbara and tends to attract a slightly younger crowd. We visited Santa Monica pier and took a ride on the Ferris wheel where you can see all the way back to Malibu! We also hired bikes and cycled along to Venice Beach, stopping to visit the Skate Park and Muscle Beach along the way. Venice Beach has a very bohemian vibe and there are lots of stalls lined along the boulevard selling gifts and souvenirs. It is an easy flat ride that anyone could do and was a great way to see Santa Monica. The Hotel Erwin at Venice Beach has a rooftop bar which is a fantastic spot to sit and watch the world go by. We arrived around 4.30 in time to watch the sunset over the beach with a glass of champagne which was the perfect way to end our time in Santa Monica. Our next stop before heading inland to Palm Springs was Beverly Hills which is only around a 20 minute drive. We had lunch on Rodeo Drive and had a quick look around the shops before continuing another two hours or so to the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa. This hotel has a total of seven pools and its very own golf course. Most visitors are generally looking to relax and chill for a few days and this hotel is the perfect option for just that. Whilst there we visited the Living Desert' which is predominately a wildlife park with lots of different animals and great for kids. It has a very interactive approach and is geared towards conservation. For those feeling a little more energetic a trip up the Cable Car at Palm Springs is a must. At 8300ft up there are amazing views out over the desert and plenty of walking and hiking trails for the more adventurous, but remember to wrap up warm as the temperature can drop below freezing and there is snow on the peaks in winter. It was 70 degrees when we were there late November but -2 at the top! All in all this was a fantastic trip and an experience I’ll never forget. I feel that I have only just experienced a tiny bit of everything California has to offer and I am already planning my return trip!
20 October 2016
Taormina in Sicily is nestled high up in the hills and clings dramatically to the rocks overlooking the sparking azure sea. Taormina is a pretty, charming and bustling old town about an hour from Catania Airport but beware if you are travelling there by car it can get very congested, especially in the summer months. There is a cable car that connects Taormina to the lower seaside resorts below and many tourists choose to park here and get up to Taormina this way. The old town itself is very typically Italian with small cobbled streets with lots of cafes, shops and restaurants catering to all tastes and budgets and set within the old stone walls. There is also a beautiful cathedral that is the town’s centrepiece plus the ruins of the old amphitheatre that are definitely worth a visit. We stayed at the Belmond Hotel Timeo which has a beautiful terrace serving drinks and food all day and has stunning views out over the bay. You do not have to be a guest to enjoy a glass of wine and watch the beautiful sunsets from here. Our primary reason for visiting Taormina was to go and visit the surrounding local villages where the film 'The Godfather' was set. My father-in-law is a huge fan of the films and it was a birthday treat for him. We hired a local guide who had fantastic knowledge of the area and took us to the exact locations where the films were shot. Even if you’re not a fan of the films it was a worthwhile experience as we got to see the 'real' Sicily and walk around tiny villages that have remained largely unchanged for centuries. We also took a trip out to see Mount Etna which is Europe’s largest and most active Volcano. The drive itself took around an hour from Taormina and we stopped en route to visit a local vineyard, where the locals were only too happy to let you try some of their product! Again our guide spoke fantastic English and was only too happy to impart stories of Sicilian life and history. Both trips were easy to organise and relatively inexpensive. We spent an enjoyable 4 days in Taormina and thoroughly enjoyed our visit, everything from the food, the weather, the wine and the Sicilian hospitality was great but it's got to be the truly beautiful views that I will remember for a long time.
24 April 2015
I was lucky enough to stay on this fantastic island with my family for 10 days this April. We arrived tired and jetlagged after an overnight flight from the UK and were met by 2 smiling and helpful representatives from Amilla who took us straight off to check in for our 35min transfer by seaplane to Amilla. They checked in our bags and gave us our tickets whilst we sat in their exclusive lounge with a cold towel and refreshments. On arriving at Amilla the service didn’t stop there. We were taken straight to our beautiful rooms by our personal butler who completed the check in whilst we unpacked and settled in. The rooms were 200 square metres of pure luxury standing out on stilts over the crystal clear waters of the lagoon. All rooms have their own private deck or beach with their own pool, and are designed to offer the utmost privacy possible. There are Lagoon houses which we stayed in that are built out over the water or if you prefer the beach they also offer 1 or 2 bedroom Beach houses, which have their own pool and are located directly on the beach. For something different Amilla offers a Tree house, which are totally unique and built high up in the trees and have their own pool, they are able to sleep 6 comfortably. We were lucky enough to be offered the chance to stay in a tree house for the night and the kids absolutely loved it!! They also have 3/4/5/6 Bedroom Residences which are perfect for large families or groups of friends. The island also boasts one of the largest infinity pools in the Maldives in case you fancy a change of scenery where you can sip an ice cold tea on a huge bean bag and laze the day away. The island has a massive choice of food and drink available and you are spoilt for choice. In the ‘Bazaar’ area near the pool there are five different restaurants offering an amazing array of food from around the world and you are able to choose from any menu regardless of what your partner or family want so there are no arguments over where to eat…….you just decide where to sit and order individually from whatever menu you fancy. So one night I had sushi, whilst my husband had a fabulous fish curry, my eldest son had fish and chips, my daughter ordered pasta and my youngest son had a burger! Perfect!! The island also has a signature Restaurant called ‘Lomu’ which is built out over the water and a sunset bar which is the perfect place to sip a cocktail and watch the sun go down. If you are feeling more active there is a fantastic dive centre plus an amazing array of watersports on offer. Or you could try volleyball or football against the island staff! They also offer a crèche if you are travelling with little ones and an outdoor cinema where they screen different films every night. Whether you are young or old, traveling with a family or looking for somewhere truly special for your honeymoon, Amilla really is the perfect choice for the ultimate beach holiday.
Chelmsford Essex 19/05/2018
dulwich, London 20/06/2017
Brentwood, Essex 15/06/2015
Felsted, Essex 15/06/2015