Orlando Florida – the perfect family getaway!

A few years ago, Orlando was a place that many dreamed of, but it always seemed too out of reach, that may have been the case, but not anymore. Regular flights take place from a number of regional airports and with fast modern aircraft the flight time is just over eight hours, where you can relax watch the latest films and be transported to your hotel.

Orlando is world renowned and is the gateway to Florida with its many attractions, but a great holiday destination or a base to explore features such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld Orlando, plus many others. Florida is also a fabulous base for some of the best golf courses in America, which are naturally all season round. Shopping is not forgotten of course and you will catch a few bargains in the Florida Mall where you can call in at the famous Macy’s store.

Perhaps you would like to take in a cruise but have promised the kids that you will take them to Disney, well Orlando is the place where it can happen. You can stay in, or close to the Orlando resort or in the City itself and visit Disney, Universal studios, spend time in some of the Orlando attractions and then take a cruise around the Caribbean before flying back to the UK. Orlando is closer than ever and is a great base for an entire holiday or combined with a cruise.

Walt Disney World, Orlando, FloridaPicture: twg1942

Avoid hassle at the airport

We are all fully aware that security at airports and when taking flights is a very necessary part of holiday and business travel. Now that security is being stepped up further due to a terror warning in the United States travellers have to prepare themselves for further delay at check in but there are some ways in which you can make the situation slightly more bearable.

The first thing that we have to say is that you should absolutely ensure that all your electronic devices are fully charged before you leave home and it would be wise to have them switched off whilst travelling and at the airport.

Weekends are a busy time and if it is possible to travel outside of them it will be better for you. Now that most, if not all airlines and travel companies allow online booking and printing of boarding cards, doing this will ease your time in the airport. Fast track through security for around £3 can prevent frustration in the snaking line of stressful passengers.

Whenever it is possible and particularly if you have had a long journey to the airport with young children, book a lounge, it may cost you a few pounds but it could prove to be money well spent. Airport security checks are an absolute necessity and as travellers we just have to make the best we can of them.

Airport securityPicture: redjar

Take the hassle out of your holiday travel

You have booked a wonderful Mediterranean cruise which is due to depart from Malaga and take in some beautiful places over the next ten days, but there is a snag, your are flying out on a budget airline and of course you inevitably come up against the excess baggage charge, worse still you are over the weight allowance.

This is a nightmare situation that so often causes headaches for travellers, you know that although the dress code on your cruise ship is going to be reasonably relaxed, it still requires smart casual wear for both the men and women, this naturally means that you may have to pack a little more that you might have to on say a beach villa holiday, when shorts and a shirt are all that is needed.

So what is the answer to this dilemma, if fact is there an answer short of packing less than you feel you may need for a ten day holiday? Well it is simpler than you could possibly imagine, you contact Send My Bag and they will resolve the matter quickly and without fuss. They will collect your bag from your home and deliver it safely and securely to the cruise liner, and you can also arrange for it to be collected from the dockside and delivered home to you. No hassle, no excess baggage, no aching back, just a smooth journey to embarkation and ten days of relaxing sailing ahead for you.

Cruise Caribbean

Picture: 16g

Visiting Ajaccio, Corsica

The main city in Corsica, Ajaccio is a wonderful holiday destination, especially for tourists searching for the perfect combination of beautiful beaches, picturesque harbours and peaceful rivers. Roman remains boasting medieval magic, majestic cathedrals, charming buildings with impressive contemporary architecture, bustling markets and a rich assortment of restaurants and bars are surprisingly in contrast with the mountain range in the background.

Climate

Ajaccio is ready to enchant its visitors with a Mediterranean climate, which tempers the heat and dryness of summer with a cooling breeze. Although winters are quite dry, heavy rainstorms may occur in spring and autumn.

Things to do and see

Casa Bonaparte, the most important tourist attraction in Ajaccio, is a large yet simple residence where Napoleon Bonaparte was born. This residence is now a national museum boasting numerous paintings and objects that once belonged to the French military and political leader and his family. Another attraction is the Gorges de Spelunca, a natural wonder plunging into a foggy green torrent at the confluence of five magnificent rivers: Aïtone, Campi, Onca, Tavulella and Porto. Tourists looking for relaxation and fun will find numerous bars, restaurants, clubs, cinemas and a great casino.

Lodging

Ajaccio makes available a variety of budget accommodation options and excellent boutique hotels, such as Les Mouettes and Bella Vista, set in superb historic buildings with private beaches, swimming pools, Jacuzzis, gardens and terraces embracing splendid panoramic views of the city and Mediterranean Sea.

Transportation

One flight per week takes British tourists from London to Ajaccio in about two hours. To get around the city, travellers can opt for different transportation options, including buses, ferries and rental cars.

AjaccioPicture: Thilo Hilberer

A tale of two cities – eats and laughs in New York and San Francisco

The United States is famous for many things, not least for its food and comedy. Here are just a few of the more popular eateries and stand-up attractions in two of America’s most vibrant and bustling cities.

New York

Fifth Avenue Restaurant & Diner: Whether it’s a quick bite or a full on feast, time is certainly not of the essence when hunger strikes in the Big Apple. Fifth Avenue’s offering is no exception; the best bit about this diner is that it also delivers around the clock 24/7. Renowned for mouth-watering omelettes, the only downside to the Fifth Avenue Diner is knowing which of the wonderful four-egg creations to go for.

Comic Strip: This New York comedy club is best known for being the venue where the greats were discovered; think Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock. Opened in 1975, the club started out as a multi-talent venue with novelty acts, singers and musicians taking to the stage. Since transforming into an exclusively stand-up venue it has become one of the city’s most popular homes of comedy. Many visitors claim they feel part of comedic history as they sit in the modest, yet charismatic, auditorium.

New York CityPicture: kaysha

San Francisco

Sparky’s Diner: San Francisco’s 24-hour eatery is infamous for both its pizza and ice cream. A plethora of other typical late-night bites are also available, such as burgers and custom milkshakes. Situated near the Castro, many partygoers will head to Sparky’s to soak up the evening’s alcohol intake and the varied and vibrant in-house jukebox is a hit for revellers who don’t want the night to end.

Improv: San Jose’s oldest theatre was built in 1904 and is officially designated a historic landmark. The club is revered for its reasonably priced food and drink and its two level tier set-up. Harry Houdini and Charlie Chaplin frequented the nightspot in the days when vaudeville acts and corporate parties were the main attraction. Today, the venue primarily hosts comedy nights and features popular acts such as Jeff Garcia and the Filipino Kingz.

Cable Car San FranciscoPicture: Peter Hijenhuis

Experience one of the most beautiful cities in Europe – Dubrovnik

One of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Dubrovnik, also called the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, is a real feast for the eye and soul.Located on the coastline of the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is home to numerous historic buildings with stunning sculptural detail, splendid churches, museums set in amazing buildings surrounded with artworks, a surprising café society, and dozens of luxury resorts that have turned the city into an elite holiday destination with first-class service and remarkable hospitality.

Climate

Dubrovnik has a humid, sub-tropical climate, with hot and dry summers and mild, wet winters. Although summer is usually characterised by thunderstorm conditions, the best time to visit Dubrovnik is from May through September.

Things to do and see

Located minutes away from the superb Elaphite, Mliet, and Lokrum islands, Dubrovnik invites tourists to visit its wonders, ranging from virgin landscapes with unique flora and fauna to internationally known churches, monasteries, museums and historic edifices, such as Rector’s Palace and Sponza Palace.

This city also boasts a wide array of superb beaches, public parks and cultural centres offering numerous workshops, exhibitions and concerts. For the most active tourists, Dubrovnik offers vibrant nightlife and a series of day activities, including snorkelling, diving, sailing, and even rock climbing and hiking.

Lodging

Dubrovnik has a wealth of accommodation options, ranging from luxury resorts to budget alternatives. Hotel Excelsior has luxury accommodation, located close to the heart of the Old Town. Villa Dubrovnik, recently renovated to offer modern facilities along with spectacular views over the Old Town and the Adriatic Sea, and Hostel Marker, with private rooms and apartments with kitchenettes, bedrooms, living rooms and private bathrooms, are just a few of the establishments that holidaymakers should try.

Tourists can also find a plethora of restaurants serving Mediterranean and local cuisine, renowned especially for fresh seafood and rakija, a distilled drink made from local fruits.

Transportation

Getting in and around Dubrovnik is quite easy. A regular flight from London to Dubrovnik takes about two and a half hours. Dubrovnik also has a reliable land and sea transportation network, connecting buses with trains and ferries.

DubrovnikPicture: Jon Culver

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

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

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