Adults only in all-inclusive luxury

Adult only holidays are relatively recent phenomena. More and more people are seizing the opportunity to enjoy a childfree getaway and meet like-minded adults for a relaxing break. There is the added benefit for those without children who are now able to take a relaxing holiday without a plethora of little ones running around.

Adult exclusive trips tend to be the epitome of sophistication and luxury and the hotels are handpicked by specialist tour operators who are experts in the field. The level of accommodation offered is usually 5 and sometimes 6 or 7 star – the best to be found anywhere. Couples and groups are able to enjoy a relaxing lounge poolside without the noise of excitable children; they can also experience a quiet, romantic meal; a rare treat far from the stressful daily teatime routine at home.

An abundance of adult only activities will be on offer; think scuba diving and boat trips, while the in-house spas will be the order of the holiday, ready to offer deep tissue massages, cleansing facial treatments and a bubble-filled Jacuzzi in which to sip champagne. On adult only holidays it is usual for the hotels to have their own private beaches and rooms with sea view balconies. The accommodation tends to be contemporary in style with a refined décor; the service will be of world-class standard.

Whatever your reason for choosing an adult only getaway, be it a break from the kids or a chance to make new friends, the stylish retreats typical of these holidays are sure to provide the perfect setting.

couple beachPicture: Wicked Cool

Corfu holidays

The island of Corfu nestling in the Ionian Sea just off the coast of Greece has long been a favourite with the British; it has nothing to do with the fact that it was a British possession from 1814 to 1864, it was during this period that Corfu became prosperous and the Greek language became official. During the period new roads were constructed, water supply was improved; we are not only welcomed to this island because we spend our money there in the holidays! But for us British it is the beaches which are situated on the western side of the island and the relaxing swimming and sunbathing, just relaxing in the warm Mediterranean sun that attracts.

Corfu’s not all about sunbathing and beaches of course, it is a green and beautiful Island with plenty to see and do; you will find riding stables, waterparks to keep the young ones happy, scuba centres to swim amongst the colourful fish, old ruins of castles and not forgetting those sleepy typical Greek villages to wander through and have a cooling drink. You can go on organised boat trips for island cruises, visits to traditional Greek fishing villages. Corfu town is worth a visit where you will find a vast selection of traditional Greek goods, jewellery, and leather.

Naturally when you go to Corfu, as with almost anywhere in Greece, it is about food and wine! For the Greeks eating is a family affair and Sunday lunch can be an all afternoon affair, but for you, just relax, drink some delightful wine, Corfu’s tavernas will not disappoint.

It is possible to hire a car in Corfu if you want to explore the island at leisure, but beware, the habits of the local drivers leave a lot to be desired and you should keep your eyes open for people from side-roads without stopping, overtaking is a sport for some and the middle of the road is where many think they should be!

When is the best time to go to Corfu, well the island get into holiday mode at around Easter until October, if you can, Late May to late June are the periods when the tavernas as less busy, the heat is not so intense, holidays are cheaper, but unless you cannot avoid it, July and August are the busy and intensely hot; September is an ideal month to take a late break. Corfu is served by all the major airlines and the budget carriers operate from most regional airports and the flight time is just over three hours.

CorfuPicture: Stefan Kraft

British Museum most popular British attraction list

The British Museum remains top of the most visited attractions list for 2013 and attracted a whopping 6 million tourists last year. The National Gallery came second in the list as London attractions dominated the list of Britain’s most popular tourist sites.

London saw a 12% increase in tourists last year, with many suggesting that it was a knock on effect from hosting the 2012 Olympic Games. London attractions made up 12 of the most visited sites in Britain and top placed British Museum received 20% more visitors than in 2012.

Housing some of the best historical artefacts in the world from the Vikings to Egyptian mummies, the British Museum has been the most visited British attraction for the last seven years.

The most visited attraction outside of London was the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh which attracted 1.77 million visitors.

Overall, visitors to British attractions were 6% up on 2012, due in some part to the good summer weather. Tourism minister Helen Grant welcomed the news by saying, “It is fantastic news for the tourism sector that our top attractions received a boost in visitor numbers in 2013 and the Government will continue to support the industry and promote Britain to the world as a great place to visit and do business with.”

British MuseumPicture: Nicolas de Camaret

Earthquake in the Greek Islands

News reports are coming in that a small earthquake has hit the Island of Kefalonia in the Greek Islands. Although not massive it was still of 5.9 magnitude and has left some damage to buildings and roads on this popular island, the setting for the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which itself featured an earthquake.

Greece has seen a number of earth tremors; they are not regarded as uncommon, but usually are only slight in nature. Kefalonia was hit by a major earthquake in 1953 which virtually destroyed most of the old buildings on the Island, the Lixouri peninsular taking the brunt of it. The net result that most of the island has modern buildings with the exception of Fiskardo, which remains a tranquil harbour setting a favourite with visiting yachtsmen and has retained its old world Greek charm.

The island does remain open for business and if you intend to go to Kefalonia in the near future there should be no problem, but normally earthquake activity will normally cease after within two or three days. The latest Foreign Office advice is that he airport remains open although there could be some disruption to port services if you are planning your trip there by ferry.

Picture: Berit

Which is it to be all-inclusive or self-catering?

It is as they say an “old chestnut” but the question is asked many times, which is the best an all-inclusive holiday where everything is paid including drinks and all meals or the freedom of a self-catering holiday? Well let us look at the two and then you can make up your own mind.

For many the self-catering holiday means that they have complete freedom to choose when to eat, ensure that children are given healthy options and the snacks are the ones that you would choose. It also means that you are not restricted to a bedroom with limited seating or sharing a lounge with others you may not know, you can choose which TV programmes to watch too. Yi are also free to eat at times you want without restriction or a rigid timetable. If you want breakfast at 11am then it is no problem. If you have children with you it also means that they can eat earlier and you can have your meal when they are in bed.

The downside is that you have to be fairly strict as self-catering means just that and not only using the kitchen to pour some cereals into a bowl and eating out all the time, although many still prefer that and choosing different restaurants each day. The other thing that is important on a self-catering holiday is to ensure that the kitchen is fully equipped and has things such as a dishwasher and microwave, plus all the cooking utensils.

Although a smaller number of us go on all-inclusive than self-catering, they have become more popular. As all-inclusive holidays usually to include everything from your flights and accommodation to food, drink and entertainment, this means that you pretty well know the cost of the holiday before you leave home, not counting those extras that we all buy, ice creams and souvenirs etc. Another plus is that you will not have to carry lots of cash or give the credit card a beating; you just need some for those little extras.

As with self-catering there are downsides, choose carefully because although many hotels offer everything, some have limitations which may catch you out if you haven’t budgeted for them. Check to see what is included; things that you may consider to be normal even at home like bottled water, is the wine included, are the drinks branded or some obscure variety, do you have to buy snacks; remember that it is normal for the meals to be either set or buffet, not a la carte for you to have a preference.

Picture: Mac Hotels

Family days out in Vancouver, British Columbia

Set amid a backdrop of snow covered mountains and impressive rain forests, Vancouver has something for everyone. Whether you want to experience superb restaurants, world-class shopping malls or recreational activities this city has it all. No wonder nearly 9 million tourists flock to the region each year. Here are some of the must see family attractions when visiting Vancouver:

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Originally built in 1889 by Scottish engineer George Mackay, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vancouver. Offering a unique mix of adventure, history and nature the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park now has various walkways and suspension bridges throughout its vast 27 acres of terrain.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s perfectly safe but does sway quite a bit when there are lots of people on it. The admission fee includes the Living Forest exhibits and a history tour of this unique environment.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a short bus ride from the city and is a great day out for the whole family. Admission costs CA$31.95 for Adults, CA$19.95 for 13-16 year olds and CA$12 for 6-12 year olds (children under 6 get in for free) and all of the parks attractions are included.

Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Constructed in 1986 using only traditional methods, the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a throwback of old garden tradition which was widely used during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

52 master craftsman and their Canadian counterparts built this impressive Chinese garden within a year using tradition building techniques without the use of nails, screws or glue. All this craftsmanship brings together the harmony of four main elements, water, rock, plants and architecture making it one of the top attractions in the city.

The best way to experience the garden is by taking a guided tour (included in the admission); this 45 minute tour gives you information about the history and significance of each garden element and why they are placed in specific areas. The tours start every half an hour from 10:30am when the garden is open.

After your tour you can visit the exquisite gift shop that sells a unique selection of items from Canada and China including skin care products, original artwork and a selection of books about Chinese culture, food and tea.

Admission costs CA$12 for adults and CA$9 for children, although there is a family ticket available which entitles 2 adults and two children (under 17) entrance to the park for CA$25.

Telus World of Science

An integral part of the Vancouver skyline, the huge silver golf ball shaped structure that is Telus World of Science is a great place for kids of all ages. Featuring an array of permanent interactive exhibits and displays, as well as various special exhibits throughout the year, Telus World of Science offers hour of fun for the whole family.

Experience a range of live science shows, art displays and puzzles & illusions that will made your mind bend.

General admission is CA$22.50 for Adults, CA$18.50 for 13-18 year olds and CA$15.25 for children aged between 3 and 12.

Picture: Dan Dickinson

The Three Valleys for the New Year

Serious skiers will tell you that there is nothing like the three valleys resorts in the early New Year, and newcomers to the sport will also get an immediate feeling that with good fresh snow and lots and lots of ski runs this famous area is all about fun.

The area of the Three Valleys or as it should be referred to Les Trois Vallées, high in the French Alps, is a truly magnificent ski area which boasts some of the best skiing in the world. With over 600 km of pistes and over 200 ski lifts, there is something that always attracts skiers as well as boarders no matter at what ability, but is linked in a manner which means that all resorts are accessible.

No matter what your standard of skiing ability is, you can cover a lot of ground during your winter ski week, and with good mountain restaurants offering a wide choice of menu, from simple raclette or soup and sandwich to excellent French cuisine you can enjoy a full day away from your home resort. The Three Valleys is easily accessible from many regional airports direct to international airports, including Geneva, Lyon and Chambery and it is accessible by car without too much difficulty.

There are no less than eight resorts in the Three Valleys ranging from exquisite Courcheval 1850, to modest accommodation in Val Thorens or lively chalet life in British favourite Meribel. All resorts differ, but they have one thing in common, they all share fantastic snow records and immaculately groomed wide open pistes.

The choice remains with you, a bustling lively resort or perhaps in a more tranquil, relaxing haven after a hard day’s ski.

Picture: Leo-seta

How to ensure that you don’t invalidate your holiday home insurance

Protecting your holiday home with the right insurance is essential, especially as you will only be staying in it for a short time each year. In this article we’ll tell you the most common ways home owners inadvertently invalidate their holiday home insurance so you don’t fall into the pitfall.

No proof of ownership of loss or damaged items

It is estimated that insurance fraud costs the UK insurance market over £1 billion a year, so it is no surprise that insurance companies are cracking down on claims. One of the main reasons why a claim may be declined is because the claimant does not have proof of ownership documentation for the items that are lost, damaged or stolen.

It is advised that you keep all receipts for valuable items in a safe place in case the insurer asks for them. Alternatively you can take a picture of the item with a time stamp; this may be enough proof for the insurer.

If the house suffers any storm damage try to get your hands on any local or national newspapers as evidence if there is a dispute.

Not disclosing any home modifications

You should always inform you home insurer when you have any work done to your holiday home including new fixtures and fittings or extensions. Bear in mind that any changes to your home may change the conditions of your insurance policy and you may have to pay a higher premium.

Not informing your insurance company about any structural work done to your home could mean that you are underinsured, leading to a reduced claims payment and a bigger financial burden to you.

Inadequate security

Most home insurance policies have some sort of security demands that the house should have, these include having an accredited alarm system, specific locks on all windows and doors and regular inspections.

If you fail to comply with the policy your claim is likely to be refused if you are burgled. Claims can also be denied if the insurer feels that you have not taken reasonable care of your items if they are damaged or lost.

Always read the small print

One of the most common reasons for a rejected claim is because the policy holder has not read the terms and conditions of the policy properly. Make sure that you read everything thoroughly and understand all of the demands and that they suit your holiday home needs before signing the contract.

Protect your home and possessions

Protect your home and possessions with the right insurance

Picture: Anthony Sigalas

 

1,008 hours of fun

In case you were not aware the school holidays in England amount to around 1008 hours and although it may seem that it is double that figure when you are trying to keep them occupied, outside of the digital distractions that is, then as a parent you will know how difficult it can be.

Most parents and grandparent more likely, have fond memories of long hot summer days, even if they did not exist, building tree houses, raiding orchards, a visit to an imaginary treasure island for picnics! The truth was it was more likely to be board games that occupied your summer holiday and not the one that came from a story book!

But how do we keep our kids occupied during the summer holidays? Well favourite has to be day trips to the seaside in places that can be reached without too much hassle or if you live in a part of the country that means it will take more than an hour or so, our country is blessed with castles and stately homes. But what about the wonderful theme parks such as Alton Park at Uttoxeter Staffordshire, Thorpe Park Chertsey Surrey, Legoland Windsor, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Drayton Manor Park Tamworth Staffordshire, Chessington Park and Zoo Chessington Surrey, Flamingo Land Malton Yorkshire and Lightwater Valley Ripon North Yorkshire to name just eight of the very many that are guaranteed to entertain all the family for some of those 1,008 hours of the holiday. Another one is Diggerland, these are construction-inspired theme parks which are based in a number of places Durham, Kent, Devon and Yorkshire, especially suitable for younger children and digger enthusiasts!

Before you go to a theme park, ensure that you visit the park web page and see what discounts they offer, two for one for example, they all have offers to make the visit less expensive.

Picture: Jerry Wong

A guide to Christmas travel

With Christmas fast approaching and as more people decide to go away to a European or Mediterranean destination, it is worth remembering the restriction that are placed on hand luggage by most airlines.

Naturally it’s always a pleasure to surprise your hosts at the airport with a small Christmas present; however, if you plan to carry presents in your hand luggage, you must ensure that they are permitted to be carried on board. Check with the airline the size of bag that you can take on the aircraft, usually this will be no larger than 56 x 45 x 25cm and remember it includes including wheels, handles and outside pockets, some airlines specify smaller hand luggage sizes.

There are restrictions on what you can put in the bag as well; liquids including gels and aerosols can only be carried in containers of 100ml or less. All liquid items must be placed in a transparent, re-sealable bag no larger than 20cm by 20cm, for example a re-sealable freezer bag is ideal. Also that harmless little toy that you may be taking for a child can be confiscated at the security check. A child’s water pistol or catapult, tools, any item that could be used as a potential weapon will not be allowed through security.

Finally if you are taking some presents, don’t wrap them; security is only going to un-wrap them. Have a great Christmas break.

Picture: gstremer