Travel with a mate http://www.travelwithamate.com Travel advice, destinations and reviews from a family of travel addicts. Wed, 07 Dec 2016 20:09:38 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 7 Perfect Locations for a Romantic Ski Weekend Getaway http://www.travelwithamate.com/7-perfect-locations-romantic-ski-weekend-getaway/ Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:17:35 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30778 Are you daydreaming about a romantic vacation for you and your partner? Ski(p) – hehe, pun intended –  the thought of a tropical island and get ready for some serious fun in the snow. It might sound intriguing to some, but there is nothing more cozy and exciting than spending your holiday in a lovely ski ...

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Are you daydreaming about a romantic vacation for you and your partner? Ski(p) – hehe, pun intended –  the thought of a tropical island and get ready for some serious fun in the snow. It might sound intriguing to some, but there is nothing more cozy and exciting than spending your holiday in a lovely ski resort. The snow, the playfulness and the long, warm nights can make for one of the best romantic times you can spend with your partner. Here is a list of the most exquisite locations for the perfect romantic ski weekend getaway.

Saalbach Hinterglemm, Austria

Meet the largest ski slope in Austria, the unique human-made gem in the Kitzbuhel Alps! Saalbach Hinterglemm, which was upgraded and improved in 2014, is famous nowadays for its excellent lift systems.

Sure, you will have a difficult time remembering and pronouncing the name, but you can rest assured that the experience will be unforgettable.  Not to mention that you will enjoy the 270-kilometres slopes waiting for you and your partner to be discovered.

Saalbach Hinterglemm, Austria

Whether you are a beginner attempting to do your first swings or a seasoned skier, you will love Saalbach Hinterglemm’ perfectly prepared slopes. You will also have a great time, reconnecting with Mother Nature and your loved one. Maybe it’s the cool, fresh air or maybe it’s the fairytale view you can enjoy with your partner that will fill your heart with joy.

Lech, Austria

Another great location in Austria to have a romantic, exclusive vacation is Lech. With an elevation level of maximum 1,450 meters above the sea level, this picturesque part of Austria is just spilling over with natural beauty and peacefulness. More than that, it also includes an exclusive list of royal names and Hollywood A-listers.

Lech

The remoteness of this ski resort and its old farming village charm make Lech a great choice for a romantic getaway. But, don’t worry. You won’t feel isolated here. Innsbruck is just a quick drive away, so you can hit this gorgeous town whenever you get tired of skiing.

If you want to learn more about this picture-perfect ski destination, check out this full guide.

Chamonix, France

It could be argued that France is one of the most romantic countries on the planet. The Eifel tower, the chic Parisian cafes, and the trendy Cote d’Azur have surely contributed to its fame. But, allow me to present to you a face of France most people don’t know about: the Alps.

chamonix skiing

France is an internationally renowned ski destination, and Chamonix is, by far, one of its best locations. The great facilities and the beauty of the place have been attracting Hollywood A-lister like George Clooney and royals such as Prince William and Kate Middleton, to name just a few.

So what makes Chamonix such a wonderful choice, besides the fact that you might share a chairlift with George Clooney? Here are just a few highlights pointed out by iGOSKI.co.uk

  • Fabulous natural setting. More than 90% of its slopes are above 2000 meters, so skiing here is a fabulous experience.
  • Beginner, intermediate or expert. Regardless of your level, Chamonix has got you covered with a wide variety of ski slopes.
  • Great ski schools: If you and your partner are new to skiing, then you will love being a student at the local ski schools.
  • Great resort attractions: The numerous attractions that the resort holds, from great cafes and restaurant to romantic dinners, will make your evenings charming and memorable. Simply put, everything here is vibrant and full of life.

Alpe d’Huez

 

At less than three-hour drive from Chamonix, there’s another ski resort famed for its impressive facilities and amazing natural surrounding: Alpe d’Huez.

The slopes here are suited for both experts and beginners. They go down to 1,100 meters and up to 3,300 meters. Thanks to the glacier, there’s enough snow from early December until late April.

alpe dhuez skiing

But, what you will love most about this skiing destination is the perfect sunny weather and the breathtaking view of the Pic Blank. It’s not for nothing that they call Alpe d’Huez the “Sunshine Island.”

If France is the answer for your romantic ski dream vacation, make sure you also check out this guide for an unforgettable ski trip in the Alps.

Girdwood, Alaska

Alaska is renowned worldwide for its amazing landscapes and natural settings. It’s also one of the best destinations for a romantic ski getaway. Girdwood stands out as Alaska’s premier ski town, located at around 40 miles from the international airport of Anchorage.

Probably the most remarkable resort in town is the charming Alyeska Resort. According to National Geographic, the best time to be here is in March, when you can get an average of 12 hours of daylight.

Alaska ski options

 What else is great about Girdwood?? 

  • Half of the mountain is wide-open alpine, so you’ll get to enjoy more of an authentic Alps experience rather than what you would typically get in an American resort. You will love skiing down on Girdwood’s classic ski run, famous for the great ski thrill that it provides.
  • Crowds are off limits here, so you will surely get to feel that much-desired peacefulness and intimacy with your partner.
  1. Banff Lake Louise Ski Resorts

Located in the heart of the breathtaking Banff National Park, this is one of the premiere ski resorts in the world. Famous for its pristine beauty and a national symbol for Canada’s love and care of nature, Banff Lake Louise is a natural gemstone.

With a resort to accommodate each different ski level, you will surely find the right one between Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. Banff has a light, fluffy powder that guarantees the greatest ski experience.

The best of all resorts is probably Mt. Norquay, famous for its history as an Olympic and World Cup training ground. It’s also a great family-friendly resort that provides easy access to the town of Banff where you can enjoy numerous attractions and some delicious Canadian cuisine.

The best thing about Banff? You can mix skiing with hiking to discover the amazing UNESCO World Heritage national park.

Gstaad, Switzerland

Gstaad must be the most eclectic, fascinating ski resort you can ever find. With a charming mix of traditional – that the few locals strive to keep as authentic as ever – and class, this is one of many celebrities favorite corner.

According to The Guardian, affordability and luxury are not antonyms in Gstaad. As unbelievable as it might sound, you can enjoy high-class conditions on a very convenient budget.

Where to ski this season?

The interesting traditions and local souvenirs make for some perfect memories of your romantic holiday. Not to mention, of course, the amazing ski facilities that Gstaad offers, transforming winter sports in unique experiences.

Deciding what destination to choose for your romantic ski getaway may seem like an impossible task. All these locations are outstanding. Regardless of what you choose, one thing is certain: skiing is one of the best winter activities to keep your romance hot.

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Make the most of your time in London http://www.travelwithamate.com/how-to-make-the-most-of-london/ Tue, 29 Nov 2016 16:42:44 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30765 Lots of emphasis is put on weekend breaks to London; how to make the most out of your time when you only have 48 hours in which to see the best the city has to offer, what to do if you are only stopping off in London on a flying visit and so on.  But ...

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Lots of emphasis is put on weekend breaks to London; how to make the most out of your time when you only have 48 hours in which to see the best the city has to offer, what to do if you are only stopping off in London on a flying visit and so on.  But London is actually well suited to those looking for longer breaks as well.  There is so much to see and do here that even with a week to spend in the city, you will find that you easily fill your itinerary and you may still find yourself having to cut down on the list of things you want to experience whilst in London.

Make a Plan

First things first, to really make the most out of your time in London, no matter how long or short your trip might be, you need to make a plan.  Think about and research the attractions you want to visit, the ones which are non-negotiable and the ones which you would just like to see if time allows.  Once you have your list you can start to budget how much visiting each of these attractions will cost you, and how long you would ideally like to spend exploring each one.  For each major attraction in London such as the Tower of London, Kew Gardens, the Natural History Museum and so on, you could easily spend an entire day wandering around if you felt so inclined but most people don’t have the luxury of so much time.  Half a day or three to four hours is usually sufficient to see the majority of what an attraction has to offer.

Natural History Museum

Get an Overview

One of the best ways of getting a feel for the city is to take an open-bus tour and this could easily be the first thing you do when you arrive in London.  It gives you the chance to see some of the major sights and landmarks in London from the comfort of a bus, many have in-audio services which offer unique and interesting facts about the city, and you will get a basic grasp of the layout of the city so that if you wanted to come back in the following days to explore an attraction further, then you shouldn’t have too much difficulty.  This is especially key if you have perhaps made use of the one the London hotel special offers and you are perhaps not as centrally located as you might have wanted to be.

Plan Downtime

Exploring a city can be a pretty full on experience so make sure that you don’t try and pack too much into your trip but leave some time to relax as well.  This might simply be spending an hour or two chilling out in your luxury room at the M by Montcalm Tech City Hotel or it might be something practical like booking into one of London’s day spas for a treatment.  If you are visiting on a budge then a great way to enjoy some downtime is to head to one of London’s many picturesque gardens and parks.  For a large city, London has some of the best gardens, parks, nature reserves and woodlands and they are wonderful places to take a walk and enjoy some fresh air.  You could head out of the city to places such as Richmond Park, Lee Valley or Lavender Pond Nature Park.

Gardens in London

Alternatively you could stay close to the heart of the city and explore places such as St Dunstan in the East, Kensington Gardens or the Chelsea Physic Garden.

See a Show

Many people come to London to either explore attractions and landmarks or to see a show; the great thing about if you come to the city for longer is that you can factor in time to do both.  London’s West End is home to some world-class productions and theatres, any of which would make a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours.  You might have a particular show in mind that you would love to see or you might be happy just to turn up on the day and see what is available; either way we are almost certain you will not be disappointed with your decision.

London shows to see

Tickets are available to purchase online or there are a number of shops and booths dotted around Leicester Square which you can pop into to purchase tickets for upcoming performances.

After Hours Exploring

If you have a little bit of time on your hands and after visiting the city mid-week then here is a handy tip for avoiding the masses of tourists; lots of London’s museums and art galleries offer late night openings midweek or on a Friday evening which make the perfect time to visit.  You won’t get many tourists heading to these late night openings meaning you can take your time and explore without the hassle of competing with hundreds of people all trying to see the same thing at the same time.  Often the museums and galleries also host talks and events during the evening which can really enhance your experience so it’s always worth looking online to see whether there is anything taking place during the time of your trip as well.

Go Further

Another great thing about having more than just two days in the city is that it gives you the chance to head away from the centrally located attractions and see what London has to offer further afield.  Some of the city’s best attractions are actually those located in Greater London and not in the heart of the city but they are often overlooked by tourists.  Likewise there are many excellent day trips which can be taken from London such as to Brighton, the Cotswolds, Oxford and even Paris if you felt so inclined.  Don’t feel limited to stay within the confines of the city, there is so much that is worth exploring in the surrounding area too.

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How To Get Directly to London http://www.travelwithamate.com/get-directly-london/ Tue, 29 Nov 2016 16:33:49 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30764 London is one of the major capital cities in the world and millions of tourists flock to the city every year to experience its nightlife, shopping opportunities and historical monuments. If you’re flying in from elsewhere in the world, Heathrow airport is a great place to land because, not only are there many hotels near ...

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London is one of the major capital cities in the world and millions of tourists flock to the city every year to experience its nightlife, shopping opportunities and historical monuments.

If you’re flying in from elsewhere in the world, Heathrow airport is a great place to land because, not only are there many hotels near London Heathrow to stay, but it has direct links to the city. This guide shows how easy it is to get from 8th best airport in the world to the city for you to get their with minimal stress and a lot of ease.

Car

Heathrow offers a variety of parking options to suit your needs; there is a business parking options purely for business travellers who are in need of a quick parking and easy transfer service, a Meet & Greet service where you are welcomed at the designated spot by one of the dedicated staff and your car is parked for you while you check in for your flight, and a Valet parking service.

London valet car service

The valet service allows you to drive your car to the valet drop-off points where your car is parked for you while you check in. On your arrival back to the airport, your car will be waiting for you so you can just put your luggage in and drive away with minimal fuss and effort. If you are arriving into a different terminal, an advanced arrangement can see your car ready and waiting for you outside your arrival terminal instead, all beautifully cleaned inside and out if you opt for the Car Care service too.

Some of these services will need to be booked in advance, so if you choose to drive your car to the airport, take a look at the different options and book prior to your travels to take advantage of the great deals.

Train

If a train is your transport of choice then there are several different routes you can take to get to Heathrow. The first is to travel Paddington station where the fastest train to Heathrow airport departs every 15 minutes and takes a mere 15 minutes to Terminals 1, 2 and 3 and 18-20 minutes for Terminals 4 and 5. It is also equipped with free tv, air-conditioning and a lovely First Class carriage which includes bigger seats, tables and complimentary reading materials.

London trains

By tube, the journey will take just under an hour and the trains are incredibly frequent. All Terminal stations, 1 through to 5, are situated in Travelcard Zone 6 and are all accessible via the Piccadilly line, which is the most direct and cost-effective way to travel to the airport on the tube.

Oyster Card

London Oyster CardThe Oyster card is an essential requirement for any London traveller as it can cover your entire journey throughout London on one little smart card. It can be loaded with pay as you go credit and Travelcards and can be used on many of London’s transport systems such as the Tube, bus, London Overground and DLR services. A Visitor Oyster card can be purchased before you leave home and can be topped up for your travels to Heathrow and back and cover any stops in between as well as saving you money with special discounts.

Bus

If the thought of having to travel through London yourself fills you with fear, then the bus service is for you. National Express service is the largest coach operator in the UK and provides a frequent service to and from destinations all over Britain including Wales, Bristol, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted airports. The coaches call in Terminals 1 through to 5 and are equipped with all of the modern touches that will make your trip comfortable and stress-free.

London Bus

Heathrow is the hub for travellers and, with great accessibility, getting there will be completely stress-free which is the perfect way to start your holidays.

Stay minutes away from the City and the Airport

Heathrow offers a range of Hotel and Parking Packages which allows you to stay overnight and use of their Long Stay car parks with free transfers to any of the terminals via shuttle bus. There are a wide selection of hotels to choose from, some that are in the airport itself or ones that are situated a few miles away so that you can experience the peace and tranquility of outer city life. The price of the package includes overnight accommodation, overnight parking at the hotel and parking at the Long Stay car park that is closest to your terminal; this means that hotel transfers are not needed and you can remain stress free and save time on the day of your departure.

heathrow t5

Just 5 miles from Heathrow airport lies the Best Western Plus Park Grand London Heathrow, a modernised hotel that is perfectly placed between London and the airport, allowing easy access and an escape from busy London life and the noise of constant air traffic. It has an impressive 124 comfortable and contemporary rooms, a bar, a restaurant, free high speed internet and a gym to delight and make each customer feel welcome for them to enjoy their pre holiday evening.

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How to do London on a Budget http://www.travelwithamate.com/how-to-do-london-on-a-budget/ Tue, 29 Nov 2016 14:30:19 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30757 Like any major European city, London can be an expensive place to visit unless you have a few handy insider tips up your sleeve and know how to save those pennies.  Certainly if you are planning a high-end, luxury break then there are plenty of ways to spend money and indulge yourself but equally, if ...

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Like any major European city, London can be an expensive place to visit unless you have a few handy insider tips up your sleeve and know how to save those pennies.  Certainly if you are planning a high-end, luxury break then there are plenty of ways to spend money and indulge yourself but equally, if you want to plan a city break but don’t have that much money to spare then you needn’t rule London out either.  The vast majority of the city’s 8 million residents aren’t rolling around in cash, so how do they live day to day?

Here are some simple tips for ways to save money when in London:-

Public transport isn’t always the answer

Lots of guides to getting around London will tell you that London has a fantastic and comprehensive public transport network which is very easy to navigate and use to get around the city.  This is absolutely spot on but, at the same time, many of London’s best attractions are actually situated within walking distance of one another making it possible to save money on a tube journey by simply using your feet!  It might seem convenient to hop on and off the tube but if money is tight then consider downloading a map to your smart phone (or picking up a paper one from one of the many souvenir booths in the city) and plotting out your day on foot instead.  With more than 40 tube stations situated within less than 500 metres of one or more other tube stations, save those public transport fares for when they really matter.

But when it is…buy an Oyster Card

London Oyster CardIf you have mapped out your journey and the attractions you want to see and using public transport just isn’t something that you can avoid then make sure you save money any way you can.  One of the best ways of doing this is to invest in a Visitors’ Oyster Card.  An Oyster Card is simply a prepaid smart card which you scan when you pass through a tube station or board a bus; it tends to work out as more cost-effective than just buying a standard ticket because you are offered the cheapest fare available at the time of travel.  In addition to this, the card is capped so once you have spent the maximum amount (around £8), you won’t be charged for any further journeys that day.

Eat on the cheap

Eating out is something you can’t really avoid when you are on a city break but there are plenty of cheaper options from early diner deals at the restaurants in West End London to the food stalls which crop up at the popular street markets.  There are also supermarkets dotted all across London and these often run meal deals where you can buy a pre-packaged sandwich, a snack and a drink for a reasonable price too.  If the weather is nice then there are lots of parks and open spaces where you can head with your purchases to enjoy a picnic; as long as it isn’t raining the parks of London are actually a very picturesque place to go in all seasons with something to see and do regardless of whether the sun is shining or not so that is always an option to consider as well.

Eat cheap in London at markets

Head online

If you know that there is a specific attraction you want to visit and it is paid entry (although make sure that you check out all the free attractions which London boasts) then the best way of saving money on the entry price is to book online and in advance.  Many of the major attractions offer discounts of up to 30% for tickets booked ahead of time and prices are usually inflated quite significantly for anyone turning up at the attraction wanting to buy a ticket.  If you are planning your trip quite a while ahead of time then you could even spread the cost of these paid entry attractions out over a period of time to help absorb the costs.

Be adventurous

Even if you are staying somewhere central such as The Piccadilly London West End hotels that doesn’t mean that you need to confine all of your explorations to the heart of London.  London is a vast city and it has attractions all over the Greater London area which are well worth investigating.  Often the prices for these attractions (if they aren’t free) is cheaper than those in the heart of the city as prices aren’t at such a premium the further out of Central London you head.  Don’t be afraid to hop on a train and see where you end up; London has some lovely suburbs which often aren’t as frequented by tourists as those areas in Central London such as the City of London.

Mix it up

We’ve already briefly touched on the many free attractions which London has but for those truly travelling on a budget then we feel it is worth mentioning again.  London has a wide range of attractions which are completely free for members of the public and it pays to mix a fair few of these into your sightseeing itinerary to ease the cost of visiting the city.  From the museums and art galleries to the historical landmarks, the festivals and free events which are often held by the larger attractions; there are really plenty of ways to enjoy the very best that the city has to offer without spending a penny.  If you are interested in discovering free events taking place then head to online forums and local suggestion sites; you can often find out about local events if you are willing to engage in a little bit of digging online for the information first.  The locals are going to be fountains of knowledge so forums and travel websites are usually a good place to start your search.

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A Little Bit of Italy in London http://www.travelwithamate.com/little-bit-italy-london/ Tue, 29 Nov 2016 14:23:09 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30751 For centuries London has been a popular city for people from all over the world to settle and at the current count there are over 200,000 Italian nationals registered as residents in London.  We know from historical records however that the people of Italy have been emigrating to London from as early as the 19th ...

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For centuries London has been a popular city for people from all over the world to settle and at the current count there are over 200,000 Italian nationals registered as residents in London.  We know from historical records however that the people of Italy have been emigrating to London from as early as the 19th century however, and there are little slices of Italian influence evident all across the city from the restaurants and gelaterias to the names of some of the most well known parts of London itself.

Whether you are a fan of Italian food and looking for the best restaurants in the city or you simply want to enjoy a little bit of the Italian culture, we have put together a list of real treats for you to choose from:-

Restaurants

There are hundreds of restaurants which bear some form of Italian influence in London so knowing where to head if you want a truly authentic Italian dish can be difficult.  Although chain restaurants are often more easily recognisable and prominent in touristy areas, try to avoid these if you can and instead head to one of the independent restaurants open in the city.  Some of the best Italian restaurants include the likes of:-

  • TortelliniCup: an excellent option if you want Italian food to go, TortelliniCup have a kiosk in the O2 shopping centre and they offer classic Italian dishes such as tortellini, gramigna and vanilla balls to take away.
  • Fiddie’s Italian Kitchen: This is a real must if you want your restaurant environment to be cosy and intimate and your Italian food to be cooked straight from the heart.  All food served here is freshly made to order and is 100% authentic Italian cuisine.  If you are staying at the Montcalm hotel Chiswell Street then you haven’t got too far to travel either, just half an hour by public transport.

Montcalm hotel Chiswell Street

  • Fat Lorenzo’s Kitchen & Bar: Located in Fiztrovia, Fat Lorenzo’s is all about the Italian influenced food served in a no-frills environment.  This is less about the grandeur and more about the feeling of a good home cooked meal.  They serve a whole range of dishes from breakfast pancakes to ice cream cocktails, and just about everything else in between.

Gelaterias

Gelato may simply be the word for ice cream in Italian but it’s actually so much more than that too.  Once you have tasted true Italian gelato you will be truly spoiled for anything else and that’s why you need to only head to one of the best gelaterias in the city if you have a hankering for the real article.

Gelaterias in London

  • Gelatorino: Located in a gorgeous café near to the Royal Opera House, the gelato here is freshly churned every single day and is kept and served in the traditional Italian manner.  Everything about Gelatorino is old-school and it works absolutely fine for this brilliant gelateria; from the traditional method to the traditional flavours, this café gets it spot on, every time.
  • Morelli’s: Morelli’s is a family business and has been run by the same family for four generations.  It’s even claimed that Mario Morelli (great-grandfather) brough the cappuccino to Britain although we don’t know that there is any hard-evidence of this.  Gelato is served in cones to go or you can eat in if you order one of their delightful sundaes; think lashings of whipped cream, swizzle sticks and more wafer than you can ever hope to eat.
  • Lick: this Soho based gelateria offers a heady selection of gelato and sorbet served in cones and tubs.  Ingredients are 100% fresh, and 100% authentic with traditional Sicilian flavours coming through.  All orders are made to go but Soho is such a vibrant area that you can grab your gelato and wander the streets enjoying and soaking up your eclectic surroundings.

Italian Gardens

If you are staying at the Montcalm at the Brewery and heading into Central London then find an excuse to visit Kensington Gardens and the Italian Gardens contained therein.  This 150 year old ornamental garden was created as a gift from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria and the layout of the Italian Gardens here is very reminiscent of the gardens Prince Albert himself created at the Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.  The gardens consist of four main water basins, each with central rosettes carved from Carrara marble and Portland stone.  The gardens are full of elaborately and intricately carved pieces from the dolphin to the Swan’s breast.  The Italian Gardens are considered to be a Grade II listed site and have actually also been used in a number of popular movies including Wimbledon and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.

little venice London

Little Venice is an area in North London which is named because of its connection to London’s waterway system, much like the real Venice is surrounded by a complex system of canals, so Little Venice is home to a number of beautiful canals and waterways.  The hub of Little Venice is considered to be the point where the Grand Union and Regent’s canals meet and a lovely neighbourhood with quaint waterside cafes, traditional inns and lovely restaurants has cropped up here.  You can hire your own canal barge if you want to try your hand at navigating the waters, follow Regent’s Canal as it leads you through North London to the Docklands, passing the likes of Regent’s Park, ZSL London Zoo and Camden Town, or simply soak up the picturesque and peaceful atmosphere which can be found here.  Little Venice is also the place to head if you want to discover some independent or fringe theatre and boasts a number of popular venues including the Canal Café Theatre and Sheldon Square’s amphitheatre.  Although perhaps this area is less Italian-inspired than you might hope, if the weather is nice you might even be able to convince yourself that you are indeed cruising up the canal in Venice and not in the heart of London.

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6 unique stops on a North Carolina road trip http://www.travelwithamate.com/6-unique-stops-north-carolina-road-trip/ Mon, 21 Nov 2016 12:13:05 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30724 Ella Buchan is a freelance travel writer with 12 years of experience. Based between London and Paso Robles, California, she can often be found seeking out local dining spots and/or drinking wine with llamas. Her time in North Carolina was part of the #DriveUS1 campaign with Captivate, road-tripping all the way down US Route 1 ...

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Ella Buchan is a freelance travel writer with 12 years of experience. Based between London and Paso Robles, California, she can often be found seeking out local dining spots and/or drinking wine with llamas.

Her time in North Carolina was part of the #DriveUS1 campaign with Captivate, road-tripping all the way down US Route 1 from Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida.

 

Where in the world can you go from sipping wine with baby llamas to hanging out in cool college cities by the coast? Rich in culture, history and offbeat experiences, the delights of North Carolina are best explored on a road trip.

Here’s my pick of stops that take in natural beauty, tempting food and charming towns of this varied east coast state – with some quirky surprises thrown in.

JOLO Winery

In the shadow of misty Pilot Mountain, the wineries of Yadkin Valley certainly have an aesthetic advantage. They also produce some world-class vintages, like the Pilot Fog at JOLO Winery & Vineyards, just off the US-52 and not far from the border with Virginia.

JOLO Winery

From America’s oldest native grape, Cynthiana or Norton, this velvety red has notes of jammy fruit, warm spices and chocolate.

That isn’t the only reason to visit. There’s also the adorable lilac cottage, known as the ‘Newlywed Chateau’. With silky-soft bed linens, a terrace overlooking the forest and a weathervane shaped like a wine bottle, it also proved luxurious lodgings for this solo traveller.

Ella and JW

Chief the Weimaraner (or ‘wine-maraner’, as owners JW and Kristen Ray joke) only adds to the charm.

Divine Llama Vineyards

Head 20 minutes south down the US-52 for more wine and a chance to hang out with baby llamas at Divine Llama Vineyards. And adult llamas – around 60 of the camelids roam, groan and watch visitors here with curious, spidery-lashed eyes.

Ella nd Llamas

One three-week-old tottered right up to me for a closer look. Perhaps she thought I was after her wine. And with blends (named after the llamas) like In a Heartbeat, half merlot and half cabernet franc, her suspicions proved correct.

A herd of Llamas

Check out the skeins of llama wool and T-shirts with the winery’s fab logo, in the style of a vintage transport poster.

Winston-Salem

Half an hour south, Winston-Salem is a charming blend of old and new. A vibrant arts and culinary scene has sprouted from its Moravian roots – the protestant missionaries settled here 250 years ago.

Old Salem Tavern

Try the Moravian chicken pie at The Tavern in Old Salem before exploring original Moravian buildings and gardens of Old Salem. Don’t miss the sloping Miksch Gardens, planted with crops early Moravian settlers grew, and Winkler Bakery. The latter has been concocting gossamer-thin cookies and rich sugar cakes since 1800.

reynolda

Reynolda House is a world-class American art museum with exquisite community gardens in the former home of tobacco baron RJ Reynolds.

I rounded off my visit with a nightcap at Tate’s Craft Cocktails, where the bartenders mix a mean Old Fashioned.

The Historic Brookstown Inn, an elegantly converted 1837 cotton mill, has enormous rooms with original wooden beams and high ceilings, with free wine and cheese in the lobby every evening.

Fearrington Village

Around 90 minutes southeast, Fearrington is a charming English-style village with a Relais & Châteaux inn, restaurant and shops located on a historic farm. Belted Galloway cows, or ‘Belties’, and monochrome fainting goats graze the pastures, while hotel guests are served afternoon tea with delicate cakes, finger sandwiches and the property’s own house-blend brews in The Fearrington House Restaurant.

Afternoon Tea

Cute Chapel Hill is a 15-minute drive away. At North Carolina Botanical Garden, butterflies flutter around grounds dotted with whimsical sculptures.

grounds fearrington

Another 20-minute drive brings you to Durham, a university town now served by direct flights from the UK. Explore the 9,000 acres around Duke University Campus, stop for a brownie sundae cake at The Parlour and sample local craft beers at Fullsteam Brewery.

Raleigh

Drive 45 minutes east to downtown Raleigh. A free bus, the R-Line, does a 20-minute lap around the city’s districts. Feel like Charlie at Videri Chocolate Factory, taste traditional North Carolina BBQ at The Pit and gawp at the selection of brews at Raleigh Beer Garden.

Raleigh beer garden

With 378 taps, this pub holds the Guinness World Record for the biggest number of brews on draft.

The Umstead Hotel and Spa, a 15-minute drive from downtown, is a sanctuary with plush beds, farm-to-table restaurant, serene spa and grounds that waft with the scent of hibiscus.

Umstead state park

Credit: VisitNC.com

The hotel has free bikes for guests’ use. Pedal the short distance to enter Umstead State Park, gloriously green all year round and popping with florets of pale gold and russet in autumn.

Wilmington

Two hours on the I-40 takes you to Wilmington, a coastal college city close to the border with South Carolina. This southern belle is blessed with natural beauty – but is too chilled out to shout about it.

Blockade Runner’s Surf to Sound Academy offers sailing lessons, kayak adventures and stand-up paddle tours through the marshes.

Credit: visit-nc.com

Credit: visit-nc.com

Don’t miss sunset over the ivory sands of Wrightsville Beach, just across the causeway. The sky swirls like candy floss before deepening to fiery burnt orange.

Wrightsville beach at sunset

credit: visit-nc.com

Discover more North Carolina at www.visitnc.com and www.visittheusa.com/state/north-carolina.

Thank you to Hertz

A big thank you to Hertz Car Hire for supporting this amazing road trip. A week’s hire in February (pick up and return to Portland Maine Int) starts from £200. Hertz has over 3000 locations across the USA. If you want to know more check out www.hertz.co.uk.

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Best adventure holidays with friends http://www.travelwithamate.com/best-adventure-holidays-friends/ Sat, 19 Nov 2016 09:41:57 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30716 Travelling together and experiencing new places is one of the most rewarding ways to strengthen friendships and create lifelong memories with your best mates. Pursuing a more adventurous getaway gives you the opportunity to challenge each other and create some healthy competition too!  Here are some fantastic adventure holidays ideal for spending with friends… Walking ...

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Travelling together and experiencing new places is one of the most rewarding ways to strengthen friendships and create lifelong memories with your best mates. Pursuing a more adventurous getaway gives you the opportunity to challenge each other and create some healthy competition too!  Here are some fantastic adventure holidays ideal for spending with friends…

Walking the Great Wall of China!

While the full 21,000 kilometres is well beyond even the most ambitious holiday trekker – this marvel of engineering presents plenty of challenging hiking opportunities, and is ideal for small groups, or larger groups of up to 16 travellers.

Walking the great wall of China

The most well known and easily accessible route is the ten day circuitous Beijing to Beijing tour, which includes guided tours of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Enjoy local cuisine and culture, stay in comfortable accommodation and maybe stretch your tired legs with a Tai chi lesson or two! Taking advantage of this more popular route means that you don’t have to worry about luggage transfers and can simply enjoy the experience with your buddies!

Wildlife adventures in Africa

Hot air balloon safari in the Masai Mara. Home to the Maasai Mara National Reserve, notable for the massive great migration of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle and elephants each year, Kenya offers some of the most unspoilt African wilderness available to explore. From hot air ballooning, walking safaris and awesome photo opportunities, this beautiful part of the world is sure to delight any group of travelling companions – and what could be a better end to the day than sundowners and a game drive with your best mates? And if you thought you couldn’t hit the beach on a safari holiday – think again! Kenya also boasts plenty of excellent beaches where activities like surfing, water boarding and wind surfing abound too!

Balloon safari

If you’re looking for a little more luxury, hiring out the manor house at Samara Game Reserve in the Western Cape of South Africa is the ultimate experience for a group looking to explore Africa in real style – and we mean style! Included with the manor are your own private game ranger, chef and butler, and a daily programme tailor-made to your specific wishes! Famous for their cheetah and rhino conservation programs, this beautiful reserve was the first to introduce wild cheetah back into their native habitat here for the first time in 125 years, which makes supporting the work of this special resort a completely guilt-free indulgence!

Arctic adventures

It literally doesn’t get further off the beaten trail than the icy Arctic Circle – and if you’re looking for the experience of a lifetime, this adventure will definitely take you and your companions out of your comfort zone!

Norway Fjords

Whether it’s taking in the greatest light show on Earth – the mysterious Aurora Borealis –from the Fjords of Norway, or observing beluga whales from the world class observation site on Somerset Island in Nunavut, Canada – this harshly beautiful landscape can be explored by ship, or spent in relatively comfortable lodges. Meeting with indigenous Inuit tribes, observing wild polar bears, whales, walruses and arctic foxes are all opportunities which only this rugged territory has to offer.

Artic polar bears

It’s a wide, wonderful world out there – and it’s one best shared with friends!

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8 of the best airlines in the world http://www.travelwithamate.com/8-best-airlines-world/ Tue, 08 Nov 2016 16:43:13 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30699 Everybody loves to complain about flights and budget airlines with tons of people and no space, but many people around the globe can confirm that there are some airlines which would make any air travel more pleasant and less stressful. The recently held survey with more than 300 thousand people rated 7394 hotels, 606 cities, ...

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Everybody loves to complain about flights and budget airlines with tons of people and no space, but many people around the globe can confirm that there are some airlines which would make any air travel more pleasant and less stressful.

The recently held survey with more than 300 thousand people rated 7394 hotels, 606 cities, 500 cruise ships and 236 islands. Among other things, people also vote for airlines. So here are the top eight air companies that according to travelers views are currently the world’s best.

Korean Air

South Korea’s national carrier offering direct or connecting flights between the various places all around the continent. A couple of years ago this company became famous for one incident. The chief executive officer’s daughter got angry for not correctly supplied macadamia nuts, forcing to fire the head of the economic department of the airlines.

Virgin Atlantic

virgin-atlantic-new-plane-vaa-12313

Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited is officially United Kingdom’s airline company, owned by eccentric Richard Branson’s Virgin Group companies group and Singapore Airlines Company as well.

Virgin Australia

maxresdefault-2

Probably one of the best Austrian Airlines, which organizes trips by air from Australian airports around the world. It also, as the name suggest, belongs to the Virgin Group and can be proud of many routes all over the globe.

All Nippon Airways Co. or ANA

ANA

It is Japan’s largest airline company, founded in 1957 and is still operating profitably. It also pampers their travelers with one of the best quality of service in this business and therefore truly loved by all travelers as well.

Qatar Airways

qatar airways

Luxury synonymous – “Qatar Airways” is the largest airline of Qatar. Plane seats, service and the overall quality of the flight are considered being one of the most comfortable and best and all that comes with a pretty big price range. However, all that money will be worth spending since traveling with these airlines is indeed an experience on its own.

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand

This national airline operates 21 domestic and 30 international flight routes to 16 countries around the world. It is mostly possible that if you will ever be flying to the New Zealand, you will be taking a plane from this company as well.

Emirates Airlines

Emirates

If you have never flown with this airline’s aircraft, that means that you have never traveled as in a fairy tale. This United Arab Emirates airline, which is a part of the international aviation holding called “The Emirates Group ,“ offers its customers only the highest class flights. So, no wonder that such a trip is not tiring at all, but on the contrary – provides a unique experience you will hardly ever forget.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines Limited is the national Singapore airline, in which everything is worked with similar principles as in Singapore itself: the most important thing here is quality. No wonder that thousands of people who ever traveled with these airlines gave the first place in the ranking of the best airlines in the world.

Singapore Airlines

The title of “the best” airlines means a lot of good things – you will be amazed from the moment you step on the aircraft to the moment you leave, but all that also mean that you might need to work with your travel budget too. Luckily, even these luxurious airlines provide their customers a chance to save on plane tickets – flight coupons for Hotwire is just one of the great savings example. Book your flights and rediscover the joy of traveling!

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Finding a fantastic hotel when heading to the Kensington London http://www.travelwithamate.com/finding-fantastic-hotel-heading-kensington-london/ Fri, 28 Oct 2016 09:32:53 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30692 London is a superb place to visit for its attractions, sights, shopping and its exquisite dining venues. Taking a trip to a capital city is a fun prospect and an exciting part is finding the right hotel to book. It’s important to find the best accommodation as that’s where travellers will spend a lot of ...

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London is a superb place to visit for its attractions, sights, shopping and its exquisite dining venues. Taking a trip to a capital city is a fun prospect and an exciting part is finding the right hotel to book. It’s important to find the best accommodation as that’s where travellers will spend a lot of their time when on holiday. By finding wonderful lodgings it means that tourists can be happy in the knowledge they are coming home to a relaxing destination. Staying in London it’s important to find the correct hotel, but also firstly to discover the most appropriate location. Staying centrally and close to transport stops is vital to a successful holiday.

The area of Kensington is an amazing destination to head to when visiting London. There are many reasons for this including that it’s just a very pretty place to stay. There is a lovely high street with a range of brand name shops and department stores for retail enthusiasts. The gorgeous Kensington Palace is based in this area with its beautiful gardens, as well as Hyde Park that is a stunning green space to visit for a picnic or play a sport. The area also has the popular Royal Albert Hall and the famous Kensington Museum Quarter. This section offers the Natural History Museum and Science Museum ideal for a day out with the family.

paddington station

Travellers will appreciate the many tube stations here including High Street Kensington, Gloucester Road and Earls Court. Nearby is Paddington Station that offers the fast Heathrow Express to the airport, or alternatively travellers can use the Piccadilly Line to get to Heathrow through the underground. Kensington is just a convenient area to head to for a holiday in London. This district is also great for travellers who can easily venture into the business sector of the City. There are many amazing restaurants and cafes in the area that foodies will get very excited about, as well as plenty of vibrant bars, clubs and pubs.

Park Grand

A top destination to reside when heading to this part of London is the Park Grand London Kensington hotel that is a gorgeous four-star boutique residence. The large rooms and suites are stunning and contain modern amenities such as Wi-Fi internet and a flatscreen television. The air-conditioned living spaces have en-suite bathrooms with a hairdryer. This luxury hotel is very appealing to travellers because even though it’s based in a fairly busy area, the residence is found in a very quiet road. It is perfect for tourists when heading to all the famous London attractions and is definitely one of the best hotels near Earls Court.

Where to have meetings in London

It is ideal for meetings and conferences with rooms that can host either event with the help of the excellent conference team staff members. The on-site restaurant is fantastic and has a delicious English and continental breakfast on offer. There is also a bar that is a wonderful place to relax with fellow travellers whether for work or socially. The residence also offers a mouth-watering traditional English afternoon tea that can be taken with champagne. Visitors in the capital need to find a superb hotel like this that is close to the centre and transport. This brilliant residence in Kensington is the right choice for first-time and seasoned tourists.

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The best lesser known art galleries found in the vibrant area of central London  http://www.travelwithamate.com/best-lesser-known-art-galleries-found-vibrant-area-central-london/ Fri, 28 Oct 2016 09:21:08 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30686 Many capital cities in the world offer incredible art galleries, and London is top of the list for providing some of the best cultural institutions. Travellers should venture to the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern when they visit the city. Many travellers want to stick to the tourist trail but they should try ...

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Many capital cities in the world offer incredible art galleries, and London is top of the list for providing some of the best cultural institutions. Travellers should venture to the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern when they visit the city. Many travellers want to stick to the tourist trail but they should try something a little different to discover the city’s arts gems. There are many destinations found in the centre of London that are well worth visiting with something unique to offer. The Cabinet Gallery in Old Street is a great example with amazing modern art and shows that are well-curated offering something very different.

Cabinet Gallery

Another popular destination is The Old Police Station that is an abandoned building in the Deptford area of south London. There are DIY spaces here for artists to create their work in the shipping containers in the courtyard and the tiled cells inside. There are amazing regular cultural evenings held on the last Friday of every month where cultural types gather to have a drink and discuss art. The Viktor Wynd Fine Art venue is in Hackney, and has many unusual pieces including skulls, shells and taxidermy. The excellent art work is found on the first-floor gallery and many visitors will adore this unique curiosity shop.

Art galleries of London

To get to these amazing art destinations tourists will want to stay in the centre of the capital. A superb accommodation to book into is the London City Suites by Montcalm in Chiswell Street that has beautiful rooms and suites with many modern facilities such as Wi-Fi internet. There is also a telephone and LCD television, as well as spacious en-suite bathrooms with rain showers and lavish toiletries. This residence offers the best hotel suites in London that are furnished to the highest standard with comfortable beds that guarantee a great night’s sleep. Tourists will be very happy to stay at this accommodation as they get to use the fitness centre and spa in the residence’s sister property that is very close by.

tourist

There is an old tradition of London gallerists using their own houses to showcase art work. This is something Danielle Arnaud does at her beautiful Georgian townhouse in Kennington. Tourists will love heading around her stunning property in south London that has elegant rooms with fantastic exhibitions. The Crypt Gallery is something very special that is found beneath St Pancras Church. The crypt was used to bury Londoners after death between 1822 and 1854, but now is host to a programme of modern art exhibitions. This destination is simply amazing for the art, and tourists will love the underground arches and alcoves.

This art gallery in the Bloomsbury area also has a popular annual alternative Christmas grotto for travellers to enjoy in December. The Banner Repeater art gallery is located on platform one of Hackney Downs station. It is visited frequently by residents in the area, and ideal for those who are heading to the transport stop. The gallery was founded by Ami Clarke in 2009 and focuses on displays of text-based works and printed materials. There are many talks and events on at this wonderful art gallery that is ideal for culture enthusiasts.

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Best Family Day Out On South Bank http://www.travelwithamate.com/best-family-day-south-bank/ Fri, 28 Oct 2016 08:57:51 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30680 The city of London is perfect for tourists who are travelling with a family as there are always plenty of places for them to visit. One of the best areas to venture to for entertainment is the South Bank that is just a vibrant place, which is fun to wander through in the day and ...

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The city of London is perfect for tourists who are travelling with a family as there are always plenty of places for them to visit. One of the best areas to venture to for entertainment is the South Bank that is just a vibrant place, which is fun to wander through in the day and night. It is instantly a wonderful destination for young ones as there is so much going on to capture their attention. There are major venues to head here that can sometimes take up an entire morning or afternoon. Tourists can take a trip to the impressive Sea Life London Aquarium, which offers around 500 species of underwater creatures and its fantastic Shark Walk.

london dungeon

The London Dungeon is a superb attraction that will really engage both adults and children with its rather ghastly tales of deaths at this destination. The incredible actors will bring the venue to life with its first-class shows and there are also excellent rides. The Southbank Centre is a slightly calmer affair, but just as captivating and informative. This amazing arts venue has dance, music and literature events on that will include many activities. This is one of the most popular destinations in the country for culture and the arts. It’s very easy to see why it has produced such loyalty from its visitors as it delivers many brilliant occasions.

south bank London

Travellers want the best experience when they choose an accommodation and they can find this by booking into the Shaftesbury London Hyde Park International hotel. This residence is amazing and includes wonderful rooms with modern amenities including complimentary Wi-Fi internet. This residence offers some of the best hotel deals in London , and tourists will feel happy in the knowledge they have chosen the right place to stay. The lodgings are based near Bayswater tube station allowing tourists to easily travel around the city. Its large rooms are furnished well with calming pastel shades making guests feel right at home.

tate modern

Culture fans can also venture up the Thames River to the fascinating Tate Modern that offers great art and sculpture, as well as a range of activities for young ones. There is also a dedicated Family Zone that is a very inspiring part of the gallery ideal for children to learn about art. There are numerous shopping destinations to visit in London, but tourists should try out the delights of the bustling Borough Market. This magnificent place is perfect for travellers who are foodies and want to try out something new. The traders at this market often provide free samples to visitors, so people heading here should look out for that.

A fun place for tourists to head is the superb HMS Belfast vessel that’s based on the River Thames. It offers the unique chance to get on board and learn about the running of the huge ship. There are nine decks to see where visitors can take a seat in the Captain’s Chair or head to the Operations Room. Travellers will enjoy the flag deck as it provides panoramic views of the city. This is a very educational visit that allows young ones and adults to learn about this Second World War cruiser, and how it’s run in its boiler and engine rooms.

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San Antonio, Ibiza Highlights http://www.travelwithamate.com/san-antonio-ibiza-highlights-reasons-to-visit/ Wed, 26 Oct 2016 13:45:47 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30672 The name Ibiza is iconic and synonymous with memorable, luxurious and fun-filled trips. Most popular with Europeans, the destination is arguably the most famous of the Spanish Balearic Islands, and welcomes hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers every year. The island remains a busy tourist destination from January all the way through to December thanks to ...

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The name Ibiza is iconic and synonymous with memorable, luxurious and fun-filled trips. Most popular with Europeans, the destination is arguably the most famous of the Spanish Balearic Islands, and welcomes hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers every year. The island remains a busy tourist destination from January all the way through to December thanks to its wonderful warm climate all year round. If you are considering Ibiza as your next holiday destination but need advice on exactly where to stay, then allow us to make a case for San Antonio.

San Antonio Ibiza

Arguably San Antonio’s biggest selling point is its stunning, crystal clear water beaches that stretch across its shores. Visitors can test their limits on the warm Mediterranean Sea by engaging in extreme sports like jet skiing and jet boating, but of course those who enjoy a more relaxed time on the coast can lounge on the beach and relax in the heat of the Spanish sun. Other popular activities in the area include banana boating, biking, scooter and quad bike hire, and go-karting, which offer tourists an opportunity to mix holiday fun with the glorious scenery of the island.

What else does San Antonio have to offer?

It’s a must for anyone interested in the clubbing scene, something Ibiza is famous for. The town contains two of the island’s ‘superclubs’, as well as many other clubs and bars. Nightlife is certainly lively here! But there are also many cafés if you’re looking for somewhere quieter to take refreshments. There are also many more relaxed ways to spend your time if you’re not into clubbing. Don’t miss a stroll around the old town, the street markets, historic churches and the Maritime Museum. You can even get away from the crowds altogether and enjoy walks and trails in the area. If you time your visit right, you might also be lucky enough to catch one of the local festivals, such as the one commemorating Nuestra Señora del Carmen, the patron saint of fishermen (16 July).

Festivals in Ibiza

When it comes to selecting accommodation in San Antonio, the area boasts a wide variety of options that covers all budgets and preferences. You’ll find luxury five star hotels with private stretches of beach, boutique hotels, and budget accommodation. Those who prefer more private and intimate accommodation can search out villas and apartments for rent. The two best areas for accommodation options are San Antonio Centro, as the name suggest, in the centre, or San Antonio Bahia.

San Antonio Centro

As with most destinations in Spain, food and good eating is an important part of the culture in San Antonio. Tapas bars and restaurants both in the centre and along the coast offer an array of amazing dishes using local pork, lamb and chicken, as well as, of course, plenty of seafood and fish caught the very same day. Ibiza is also very well known for Flaó eivissenc, a delicious tart that is made out of goat’s and sheep’s cheese.

Flaó eivissenc

Have fun and be sure to book your San Antonio airport transfer with Holiday Taxis!

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What visa do I need to travel in the USA? http://www.travelwithamate.com/what-visa-america-usa/ Fri, 14 Oct 2016 08:07:10 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=25250 If you’ve ever been to the USA for tourism or work you’ll know that border control is extremely tight. The United States has some of the strictest rules when it comes to entry in to the country and the joys of visas will no doubt be something you’ll have to contend with if you’re planning ...

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If you’ve ever been to the USA for tourism or work you’ll know that border control is extremely tight. The United States has some of the strictest rules when it comes to entry in to the country and the joys of visas will no doubt be something you’ll have to contend with if you’re planning extended travel or work there. So here’s a little guide to help you get your head around the fun that is US visas.

What is a visa?

USA travel visa guideFirstly a little background on what visas are. A visa entitles the holder to travel to the United States and apply for admission to enter the country. The visa is issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and technically does not guarantee they will grant you entry in to the country. When you arrive at the airport the staff at border control will check your visa to make sure its genuine and valid. You need a visa even if you’re a tourist although for some countries this is easy to obtain. There are many other types of visas depending on how long you’re staying, who you’re visiting and if you’re working in the country.

I’m going for a week or two, do I need a visa?

This depends on what country you are a citizen of. The USA now has a system called the “Visa Waiver Program” which allows people from certain countries easy entry as long as your passport is valid. You can obtain this online via an application ESTA form. Here’s a list of countries that are eligible. Is yours on the list?

  • United Kingdom
  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium,
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Chile
  • France
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

You may be able to get a US entry waiver if you think a past record might hold you back at the border.  Just expect a bit of a grilling when you’re at border control as the staff there like to be thorough.

US Visa Waiver Program

Long term travel visa

B2 extended visaWith such a vast and varied country to explore you may want to to travel around the USA for longer than a standard tourist visa will allow (90 days). You can get a extended travel visa called a B2 Tourist visa which allows up to 6 months of travel within the USA. It is also possible to extend the B2 visa up to 1 year too so that epic road trip you were thinking of is entirely possible. The B2 visa does not allow you to work or conduct any business and you can expect a lot of questions when you arrive about your plans during your extended stay. You may also be asked to prove you have enough funds to for the duration of your trip so I advise printing out some savings  account statements and making sure you have at least theoretically enough money to stay for a few months and afford a journey home. You’re not expected to have enough money to last the full visa length but a clear plan of how you will be funding your travels is always a smart thing to travel with.

Visiting the US Embassy

US EmbassyIts worth noting that if you entered the USA under the Visa Waiver program you can’t apply to extend your stay while you’re in the country. You must return to your country of origin in order to extend. You’ll need to visit the US Embassy in your country and apply for the B2 visa there. As the USA is very strict on immigration you will likely have to make an appointment to be interviewed at the embassy about your travel plans. Expect to spend the day waiting at the Embassy, usually around 3 hours.

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The best travel apps for exploring cities http://www.travelwithamate.com/best-travel-apps-exploring-cities/ Thu, 13 Oct 2016 18:48:50 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30662   There are endless travel-related apps for both Android and iOS that smartphone and tablet users can enjoy. However whilst most of them like to offer one-stop shop type solutions for your travel requirements, combining several different things under one app, more often than not these apps don’t really help you when it comes to ...

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There are endless travel-related apps for both Android and iOS that smartphone and tablet users can enjoy. However whilst most of them like to offer one-stop shop type solutions for your travel requirements, combining several different things under one app, more often than not these apps don’t really help you when it comes to the more practical side of city exploration.

When you’re wandering around a new city most of us want to be able to find landmarks and other popular hotspots in the area.

Thankfully there are apps like these that can help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

Packing Pro

Packing ProBefore you’ve even headed out the door on your travels the one biggest pain in the neck is having to worry about making sure you’ve packed everything you’ll need on your trip.

There’s nothing more frustrating than arriving at your destination and realising you’ve forgotten something crucial like a phone charger or your sun cream. Most items you should be able to replace when you arrive however with apps like Packing Pro you can ensure that nothing is left behind. The app helps you plan for your trip by setting up to-do lists and lists of must-have items which you can tick off as you go.

Sit or Squat

Sit or squat appThere’s nothing more frustrating than having to wander around an area you’re not remotely familiar with trying to locate the nearest toilet. It’s something that is especially difficult when there’s the added complexity of a potential language barrier.

Now with a few taps of your Sit or Squat app you’ll be able to swiftly locate all the free toilet facilities nearby. Hilariously the app also includes photos and comments on each of the restrooms ensuring that you pick the best location for your potty break.

Owners direct holiday rentals

Direct holiday rentals appThe Owners Direct app is an extremely useful app for those looking to pre-book their accommodation before they take their trip. There are plenty of similar apps on the market but the OD app boasts over 1 million different types of rental available to its users that includes private home rentals, houses, hotels, bed and breakfasts, apartments, condos and more. This wide ranging selection spans across the globe over 190 different countries and so you’re bound to come across something near you.

Skype

Whilst taking a once in a lifetime trip or travelling around for weeks on end may be an exciting prospect to some, for others it can also mean plenty of moments feeling homesick.

If you have an iPhone you can always video chat with those back home using built-in features like FaceTime but for those who don’t you can always turn to Skype.

The Skype app will allow you to keep in touch with loved ones through voice and video chat wherever you can pick up Wi-Fi. Skype to Skype calls are absolutely free over a wireless network and even if you’re not on Wi-Fi an international call is merely a couple of cents per minute which is significantly lower than most standard mobile tariffs.

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Winter warmer holiday ideas http://www.travelwithamate.com/winter-warmer-holiday-ideas/ Thu, 13 Oct 2016 10:52:30 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30636 You’ve been daydreaming about getting away from it all. Maybe because you’ve been cooped up inside for too long. Maybe because the job is humdrum. Maybe you just need a change of scene. Maybe because it’s Thursday. Any reason is a good reason. Or maybe it didn’t even occur to you until this very minute ...

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You’ve been daydreaming about getting away from it all. Maybe because you’ve been cooped up inside for too long. Maybe because the job is humdrum. Maybe you just need a change of scene. Maybe because it’s Thursday. Any reason is a good reason. Or maybe it didn’t even occur to you until this very minute that you need a break. There are a countless number of places to choose from, as you know. Let us help you narrow it down. We’ve selected four trips that we’ve found especially effective in shaking off those winter doldrums.

Belfast Christmas Market

Right there in the middle of Belfast is a Christmas wonderland, open from 19th November to 22nd December.

Christmas markets

Put on your most festive Christmas jumper and wander among the hundreds of stalls brimming with delights while listening to carolers sing on the steps of City Hall. Enjoy Belgian chocolates, French tarts, German sausages, and Spanish palella without setting foot outside the UK. Try an exotic burger made from alligator, impala, kangaroo, or wild boar. Have a Belly Buster Baguette with all the trimmings at the Welsh Hog Roast stand.

But it’s not all about food. You can have a brew at the Merry Monk beer hall or at Lavery’s Irish Bar  with live music all day. If you can pull yourself away, you’ll find stalls with unique gifts, fine clothing, and Christmas decorations from all across Europe.

The Belfast Market is the place to be to get you in the Christmas spirit. Even Santa takes time out from his chores at the North Pole to be there every day!

Aviemore

In the Highlands of Scotland, in the midst of The Cairngorms, is the village of Aviemore, where you will have a magical winter break in your own log cabin, chalet, or cottage.

Aviemore

For those who are adventurous, there is skiing, snowboarding, or climbing the cliffs of Lochnagar and Creag an Dubh Loch. For those who are more reflective, there is stunning scenery at every turn. For those who are simply tired, there is the tranquility and quiet of the cabin with the snow glistening outside your window. You might even sight that rare treasure, a frost flower!

In the village, you can  browse through shops that specialize in unique gifts, works by local artists, clothes, sweets, and fresh, locally produced food, then stop in one of the fine restaurants or cafes. You can be as busy as you want—or as lazy.

At the end of the day, whether busy or lazy, curl up in front of the log fire or wood burner and enjoy the aroma and richness of a steaming cup of Gourmesso Coffee from www.gourmesso.co.uk.

Wales Coast Path

This trip is especially appealing to those who have been confined to an office for far too long. You can explore the Welsh coastline up close and personal along the many paths already mapped out for you—walks ranging from 0.8 km to 23 km.

 

North Wales

One of the easier paths is the North Wales Coast and Dee Estuary. You can stroll along the promenade between Prestatyn and Conwy and enjoy the seafront towns along the way. This is a path for the whole family, including those in pushchairs or wheelchairs.

There are two paths mapped out for you for the Gower to Swansea Walk. One is between 3.2 – 7.25 km, and the other between 8.25 – 12.9 km. Along the Gower Peninsula, which was chosen as the UK’s first “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” the natural wonders include wild moors, limestone cliffs, and the famous golden beaches. In the picturesque seaside town of Swansea, you’ll have breathtaking views of Swansea Bay.

Wales coast

 

The remote northern sections of the Pembrokeshire path are challenging, for the experienced and hardy only. Climb up steep cliffs for dramatic views of Skomer Island and St. David’s Head. Tread the rocky landscape of heather and bracken of Ricketts Head to reach a towering cliff that seems to exist in isolation. At Haroldstone Chins Rocks, rich green lichen grow profusely on the cliff face, a testament to the clean and pure air you’ll breathe.

Costa del Sol

If what you really need is a respite from the cold, a three-hour flight will land you on Costa del Sol, “Coast of the Sun,” in Andalusia.

Costa del sol

The sunny days (they alone a welcome respite) allow you enjoy glorious beaches, quaint towns,  historic architecture, and, if you feel lucky, a casino. Along the beach, you can stroll the promenade with its boutiques and cafes—it’s the place to meet and greet.

Restaurants offer the best in native cuisine, a fusion of Spanish, Jewish, and Arabic traditions, with seafood the specialty.

If you want to take a longer break from the UK winter and fancy more of an adventure, drive. You can wander off the main route and explore whatever paths entice you along the way. There are brilliant accommodations: luxurious hotels, some housed in historic monasteries, manor houses, and palaces. Plus you have the advantages not afforded by flying: the flexibility to change your plans and the freedom to take as much luggage as you want.

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Website review: sellmytimesharenow.com http://www.travelwithamate.com/website-review-sellmytimesharenow-com/ Tue, 11 Oct 2016 19:32:10 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30633 We’ve always made it our mission to explore every type of accommodation available when travelling and there’s certainly no shortage of options. There is one, however, which has plenty of reputation and is often overlooked as a viable option. Timeshares have long been a bit of a mystery to many but we actually have experience with ...

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We’ve always made it our mission to explore every type of accommodation available when travelling and there’s certainly no shortage of options. There is one, however, which has plenty of reputation and is often overlooked as a viable option. Timeshares have long been a bit of a mystery to many but we actually have experience with them via family members and have definitely seen the positive sides to part owning a holiday destination property. Timeshares have been in my family for a couple of decades now and have proved a wise investment, depending on the type of holiday-maker you are of course. These days you can also rent other people’s timeshare properties and the internet is the perfect place to go hunting for some great deals.

We recently reviewed a website designed to help you find fantastic deals on timeshare rentals and for those that own them to sell their properties too.  SellMyTimeshareNow.com, a company based in the USA, was founded in 2003. The website features more than 60,000 timeshare properties (for sale and for rent), so plenty of options to choose from on your next visit to the States and beyond. As ever, we like to test just how good a website is for finding exactly what you need. Does it have the variety to be a truly useful timeshare search engine? Are the deals the best on the market and how easy is it to book? We put SellMyTimeshareNow.com to the test. Here’s how we got on.

Website review of Sell my timeshare

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

We love a homepage with some detail rather than just photos, so there’s certainly some here to help both sellers and renters get started. Lots of useful info about how to offer and some quick views of recently added properties too. The styling is clean enough, maybe not ultra-modern, but certainly user friendly. The site isn’t “responsive” so is a little tougher to use on a smartphone, you’ll need to zoom in and pan around to use it there but other than that its clear and concise. Homepages can easily become overwhelming so it’s good to see exactly what this site can do for me and where I might want to go next. I’m looking to rent a timeshare, so let’s dive right in.

timeshare rental review

RENTING A TIMESHARE IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA

I’m thinking of taking my young daughter to Disneyland so timeshares for rent in Orlando is a great place to start. From the homepage there’s a big search box which, when submitted, takes you to a results page with various controls to help filter. By default it’ll show you all timeshares for rent and sale, so you’ll need to change the “Listing Type” to “For rent”. All new searches seem to default to “For Sale and Rent” so you’ll need to keep applying your filters. It would be great if the site could remember the type of properties I’m looking for.

find timeshare rental options in USA

There’s plenty of filters here for price, week, property size and if you click on “More Filters” a whole variety of more detailed options appear. I recommend using “More Filters” as you’ll get the most out of your searching. The “Week” filter is a little confusing to most and we’ve come across this before where timeshare companies like to list availability by the week of the year rather than dates. We have no idea what week of the year “Week 28 is” and I’m guessing you won’t either. So it’s best to use the “More Filters” and enter a check-in date. Entering my preferred check-in date of “1st September 2017” gave me results for weeks 34, and beyond (who knew!). Alternatively, you can check out their handy “Timeshare Calendar” which will provide you with the exact week number for your specified vacation dates.

THE RESULTS

My search and filtering returned plenty of results for my wife and I to look through. A great range of properties all clearly marked as “For Rental By Owner” and giving a short snippet of the description along with the address and unit size, plus the all-important price! I sorted by prices low to high but be careful you pick the right sorting method when doing this. While I was filtering for just rental properties I was able to sort them by their sale price rather than rental price which is rather confusing at first. Once I’d filtered correctly we had fun sorting through the properties we were most interested in. I recommend opening a new tab for each one you want to view as it makes getting back to the list much easier. We soon had 10 or so tabs open!

website review: sellmytimeshare.com

COMPARING PROPERTIES

So let’s compare the first 3 results, opened in new browser tabs for easy access. The prices are very competitive which is to be expected as Americans do love their timeshares. Competition is fierce keeping prices very reasonable. The details page could maybe do with bigger images and more of them. These properties had just 4 images each but at least they were varied in content. Exterior shots, interior, and views.

find timeshare rentals in orlando

In order to gauge the size of the property, if it’s not apparent from the photos, it’s worth comparing how many bedrooms there are to how many they claim it can sleep. A listing for Sheraton Vistana Resort (Spas Villas) says that it is a 2 bedrooms but sleeps 8 which would suggest there’s ample room in the lounge for 4 to sleep comfortably while 4 sleep in the 2 bedrooms. There’s a handy Google Map on this page which sits in quite a small box on the right. You can’t expand this map but you can at least zoom in to see where the property is located. There’s also the usual details hidden in collapsible tabs for Unit Amenities, On-Site Amenities and Nearby Amenities.

Website review: time share selling and renting

I recommend contacting a number of possible properties for your trip. The Inquiry form is clear on every property details page and you can even put in an offer on rental price rather than just accepting the displayed rental price. You can also use the form to ask questions, get more information on the property, and more. Submitting the form will take you to a page with plenty of information on your correspondence as well as what to expect from the timeshare owner. It’s a very easy system for making contact with numerous property owners and opening a tab for each one means you can simply close the tab when you’re done and move on to the next property.

sellmytimeshare.com website review

We were able to contact numerous properties very quickly and what the site lacked in information we were soon able to get from helpful owners. I love the fact that you can make an offer too and I definitely recommend negotiating rather than just accepting a price. You could save yourself a decent amount and have more to spend on other parts of your trip, so definitely worth pushing to see what you could save.

how to rent a timeshare property

It’s worth noting that not all properties have online booking facilities, so if you’re looking for a super easy experience you might want to filter by “Online Booking” as well. It definitely adds a little peace of mind and keeps everything within the website’s ecosystem. But if you’re looking to haggle for the best deal, you’re better off dealing directly with the timeshare owner via the inquiry form. It’s great to have the option of both here.

LAST MINUTE DEALS

Another area we found very useful was the “last minute timeshare rentals” which are promoted throughout the site. If you’re looking for something in the next few weeks and don’t mind where you go, then this section is for you. The list is filtered by your search results so we had a list of amazing last minute deals in Orlando. A lot of the deals here are for spare days that owners have in their diary, so in addition to the traditional week-long timeshare rental you might also find options for long weekends and 2 night breaks. The online booking details page for these properties offers more information on a Google Map, although curiously less information than standard property details pages. Still, if you’re looking for a mega cheap deal for this coming weekend it’s definitely worth checking out. You will find some very impressive prices here.

Time share website review

OTHER COUNTRIES

While SellMyTimeshareNow.com obviously has numerous timeshares for sale and for rent in the USA (over 40,000), it does also feature properties in many other countries around the world. The number of results returned are much lower outside of the USA even for places like England but this is also partly because there are fewer timeshare holiday properties there than in the USA. In other timeshare-heavy destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean, it’s still a good source of options with some great deals.

CONCLUSION

We found the website very easy to use and we found quite a few properties that were within our price range. I love the fact that you can offer your own price for the week you’d like to stay. The timeshare industry does tend to have its own vocabulary and methods of sharing information, which to many may seem a little baffling but you soon get used to the terminology. The site has a very large amount of properties both for sale and rent and those fabulous last-minute deals too.

As I get older I definitely find myself looking more at short-term rental apartments and homes rather than hotels. You get a lot more for your money and feel more at home in the country you travel to. So it’s great to know there are so many options available when it comes to timeshare rentals. I’ll definitely be making use of this website on our next trip to the states and will keep a keen eye out for properties in other countries too. The site is easy to navigate and fast to browse around, with a few tweaks to bring it up to modern website standards (which I hear are in the works) it could be the perfect place to find (and negotiate) a great deal on accommodation.

Check out www.sellmytimesharenow.com and have a browse around. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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Our family holiday in Crete with Olympic Holidays http://www.travelwithamate.com/family-holiday-crete-olympic-holidays/ Thu, 06 Oct 2016 11:23:29 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30604 We’ve been incredibly busy recently and when that happens its always family time that suffers. So when Olympic Holidays offered us the opportunity to experience their Greek island holiday deals we jumped the chance. Finally some quality time to spend as a family taking our 2 year old daughter to her 6th country and our first time ...

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We’ve been incredibly busy recently and when that happens its always family time that suffers. So when Olympic Holidays offered us the opportunity to experience their Greek island holiday deals we jumped the chance. Finally some quality time to spend as a family taking our 2 year old daughter to her 6th country and our first time on the Greek island of Crete. 7 days to both explore and relax in beautiful surroundings. One of the most interesting aspects of travelling with a child is how perspectives and requirements change massively. So it was with both excitement and curiosity that we headed to Crete with Olympic Holidays.

Heading to Crete

This particular greek island has long been a package holiday destination for us Brits so getting there was easy. There’s plenty of flights out of all major and most minor airports in the UK and it was no surprise to see lots of familiar airlines on the tarmac when we arrived. Flying time from the UK is around 4 hours which thankfully our toddler enjoyed and did her usual tricks of making friends with nearby passengers and demanding endless snacks from the flight attendants. The climate in mid September is a very comfortable one hovering around the mid to high 20’s with low humidity. Perfect weather for a toddler and parents although sun cream is an obvious must.

Leaving the clouds of England behind!

Aldemar Royal Mare

We stayed at the impressive Aldemar Royal Mare resort which is around 30 minutes from the airport. Hidden down some fairly rural and narrow roads this beach side resort is both large and secluded with a grand entrance that impressed out little daughter. She’s a sucker for a fountain and loved the huge lobby area complete with modern chandeliers and Greek murals too. The resort has quite a unique layout with collections of 2 and 3 storey buildings around private pools offering you either quick access to a pool or if you get a VIP room like ours, direct access to the pool from our terrace. I’ve never stayed in a room with that kind of proximity to a beautiful private pool shared with just a few other rooms. This layout gives the entire resort a secluded and private feel with access to larger more public pools and restaurants via numerous paths around the site.

VIP room with private pool access

The hotel was built in 1996 with a revamp of room decor in 2014. For the most part the revamp has done the place wonders with lovely teal colour-schemes in our room and plenty of modern amenities and restaurants too, plus fast wifi pretty much everywhere which is impressive for the size of the resort. There are 6 restaurants and cafes with bars dotted around that covered almost the entire day, so going hungry or thirsty was unlikely! The whole site invites you to explore its various paths and walkways past their won impressive landmarks like the pretty clocktower, the huge sun dial and our daughter’s favourite hang-out, the huge pirate ship in the Children’s play area (more on that later!)

Royal Mare Resort in Crete

Days out

While a resort like this just begs you to stay all day and relax by the pool, a combination of our own curiosity and our toddler’s inability to sit still for 2 seconds meant that exploring the island was high on our list. Crete is very well equipped for car rentals, in fact I’ve never seen such a variety of vehicles of all shapes and sizes available at most tourist towns along the coast. Everything from quad bikes to convertible jeeps and beach buggies. I definitely recommend hiring a car while you’re there even if its just for a day as its always fun to go out exploring and very easy to drive too. The roads were never too busy and driving through the coastal towns lead us to the nearby Palace of Malia. A Minoan palace ruins well worth a visit to understand more about ancient life on this island. It was fascinating to explore and thankfully parts of it are shaded by a recent addition of protective roofs over 3 areas of the site.

Palace of Malia

WaterCity

We also had the pleasure of visiting WaterCity unusually located high up away from the coast, some 25 minutes or so from our resort. A fun drive with epic panoramic views of the coastline. The water park is quite expensive especially if you have 2 kids so I recommend making a full day of it. The park is filled with fun, scary and down-right insane water slides of all shapes and types, fun for us adults and thankfully some tame kids pools where our daughter could splash and play too. There’s a handy payment system here done by wristbands with barcodes on so paying for lunch, drinks and souvenirs was easy, although your bill could soon mount up. The park was a great place to go in September with tourist numbers reduced, there was never any queues and we had lots of fun scaring ourselves on some of the slides and tubes. Check out watercity.gr/en/index.php for more information.

Olympic Holidays in Crete

Labyrinth

Another place worth a visit, especially with children, is Labyrinth Park. There were plenty of sign posts along the major roads for this mini theme park situated just 15 minutes from our hotel. The park is a combination of local history and culture mixed with kids favourites like mini golf, a tame but enjoyable cart track and a petting zoo.

Visiting Labyrinth in Crete

The centre piece is a very impressive maze filled with historical information about Minoan myths and legends. The labyrinth maze was fantastic with plenty of stops inside to gain stamps for the kids and education for the adults. There’s bridges, tunnels and vantage points to explore while you’re in there and we found the maze a challenge yet easily completed in 30 minutes or so. Perfect entertainment for our 2 year old. The entire park is immaculate and very well run with friendly staff and plenty to explore, all within a quiet relaxed setting that kids will enjoy. Head over to labyrinthpark.gr/en for more information.

Labyrinth theme park in Crete

Days in

One day of exploration wasn’t enough for us but with a toddler in tow we alternated our days out in the car with a day in at the resort. Time to just enjoy family and bond with our beautiful little daughter. She loves to swim so having the pool right on our doorstep was perfect, although the tiles in our room and by the pool were very slippery when wet. Plenty of towels sorted that issue out. Its amazing how quickly the day can go when you’re just enjoying where you are. Meals become entertaining events especially at the buffet restaurants and our daughter became somewhat of a celebrity with staff, partly because of her obsession for Banana smoothies and her confidence to talk to anyone.

Olympic Holiday review

As the Aldemar Royal Mare resort is right on the beach we did leave our private pool a few times to check out the waves along the shore. The beach area is small with waves lapping just a few metres from the hotel boardwalk at high tide. Never-the-less there are plenty of sun worshippers here making the most of the sea breeze and sunshine. Don’t bother with a bucket and spade though, I couldn’t decide if the beach was made up of small stones or large sand! Definitely not castle building material although I suspect very good for reflexology!

Royal Mare resort beach

Kids play time

Of course no holiday with a toddler would be complete without spending plenty of time at kids play zones and thankfully the Aldemar Royal Mare resort does a very good job in this department. The impressive adventure playground is a Pirate ship with plenty of walkways, bridges, climbing areas, slides and even ship’s masts that even our little one could explore. There’s a cute little toddlers pool here too but the real attraction here is the play house and the fantastic “Animation team” who are there to help the children with whatever they needed for playtime fun.

Olympic Holidays all inclusive review

Our daughter was in heaven and get right to work drawing, painting, playing with toys, building puzzles and enjoying the soft play area too. Its a well equipped little hut with indoor and outdoor space, a chill out zone for kids getting a bit too hyper, even bunk beds if they’re feeling sleepy. Kids over 4 can be left in the capable hands of the Animation team but we loved being a part of our 2 year old’s play time fun. Definitely a highlight of the resort and perfect for our bold little child.

Kids holidays in Crete

Food glorious food

Its amazing how food becomes such an important part of any holiday and the Aldemar Royal Mare resort didn’t disappoint here. There’s food available almost around the clock at various venues, some included in the “all inclusive” package while others are extra. The huge buffet restaurant always had something our fussy eater enjoyed, especially the multitude of desserts. The menu didn’t vary all that much but with so much on offer there was plenty to enjoy.

Enjoying Breakfast

The highlight of our culinary experiences was without doubt the Asian Garden. We have a love for Asian cuisine and were keen to sample some fresh sushi and impressive range of dishes from all over Asia. The setting is tranquil and minimalist, a very Japanese style and it was fun watching the chef at work in the open kitchen. The Sushi was fantastic as you’d expect from a small island and the Singapore Noodles took us right back to our travels in South East Asia. Our daughter adores Asian food too, happily munching her way through every course and giving the chopsticks a go! A big thank you to the staff at the Asian Garden for their hospitality. While the restaurant is not included in the all-inclusive package its well worth treating yourself one evening.

Sushi at Royal Mare Crete

Its worth noting that the “all-inclusive” status of the Aldemar Royal Mare resort was a little confusing. There was a “premium all-inclusive” package available which suggests the standard “all-inclusive” package is not all that inclusive.  There were also some strange quirks like tea and coffee costing extra in the main buffet restaurant while it was free in the “Greek street food” snack bar, yet beer and wine was included. For the most part everything we wanted and enjoyed was included but to my mind all-inclusive should mean just that, so be prepared to spend a little extra or roll with strange rules.

Buffet dining at Royal Mare Crete

The highlight of the resort was definitely the friendly staff we met everywhere, from the waiters at restaurants, the cleaners, bar staff and lobby staff too. They were all very welcoming, very helpful and always smiling. Now that we have a child I realise how much more demanding parents are as guests so it is very much appreciated the extra effort staff members go to in order to keep families happy. We’re always putting our kids first and having that little extra support from hotel staff really makes a huge difference.

Family package holidays to Crete

A great time to visit

September was definitely the perfect time visit Crete with Olympic Holidays. Reduced tourist numbers and cooler temperatures throughout the day and night made our stay all the more relaxing and problem free. The resort never felt too busy and our excursions were always easy going and never had to fight any tourist crowds. It feels like there’s a different atmosphere to September holidays, maybe a more relaxed vibe after the peak season tourists have departed. I also find September holidays prepare me well for the cold of another British winter, topping up my vitamin D levels and putting a spring back in my step!

Crete family holiday ideas

It was fantastic to finally have a week with my beautiful family. Those moments bonding with our daughter and showing her more of the world are always so precious to us and this trip definitely made us feel a closer family unit again. Something you can’t put a price on.

Olympic Holidays

Olympic HolidaysA huge thank you to Olympic Holidays for arranging this holiday. Here’s more details on our trip.

  • Hotel: 5* Aldemar Royal Mare Thalasso 
  • Price: 2 adults, 1 child – total price is £1699.62
  • Room: Twin inland view room on a half board basis.
  • Taxi transfer included

Example flights from London Gatwick next season

  • London Gatwick to Heraklion Airport
    Depart: Tuesday 16/05/2017 at 09:25
    Arrive: Tuesday 16/05/2017 at 15:15
    Airline: Enter Air (ENT405)
  • Heraklion Airport to London Gatwick
    Depart: Tuesday 23/05/2017 at 16:15
    Arrive: Tuesday 23/05/2017 at 18:20
    Airline: Enter Air (ENT406)

For more information and booking check out the Olympic Holidays website. and check out the hashtag #OlympicCrete for all our updates during our week in the sun!

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Women’s fashion – top travel accessories you can’t do without http://www.travelwithamate.com/womens-fashion-top-travel-accessories-cant-without/ Mon, 19 Sep 2016 21:54:31 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30596 Travel can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, filled with exciting activities, new friends and amazing cultures. It can also be incredibly stressful without the proper planning. These days, there are all manner of gadgets and gizmos designed to make our lives easier though, so it seems only natural that this ...

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Travel can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, filled with exciting activities, new friends and amazing cultures. It can also be incredibly stressful without the proper planning. These days, there are all manner of gadgets and gizmos designed to make our lives easier though, so it seems only natural that this has spilled over into the world of travel accessories for women. Hopefully, these stylish additions to your luggage will go some way to making your next trip a lot easier, getting you organised whilst staying fashionable.

The travel wallet

travel wallet

You may well think that you don’t need a travel wallet, but unless you’ve had one you won’t realise just how useful they are. They have compartments for currency, passports, boarding passes – you name it. Aside from that, this accessory has really taken off in recent years, and there are now tonnes of stylish designs to choose from. Brightly coloured patterns to match your luggage, or slick, leather goods to add an air of sophistication, these are the perfect accessory for the modern day woman.

The jewellery organiser

Travel Jewellery organiser

If you have any expensive or handmade jewellery that’s precious to you, it’s essential you pick up one of these. Rather than having lots of little boxes and bags littered throughout your suitcase which could easily get lost or damaged, it keeps everything safe and compact in a discreet case, and separated so that your necklaces don’t tangle. You can also get them in a variety of colours so that they match the rest of your luggage and personal taste.

The hanging cosmetic bag

Hanging cosmetic bag

Have you ever been in the situation where you get to your hotel only to discover that the bathroom space is far too small and you have nowhere to put your toiletries? If the answer is ‘yes’ then you’ll find these to be a godsend, as most bathrooms have a hook on the back of the door, meaning you can turn it into your own personal ‘dressing table’. As these hanging cosmetic bags fold out several sections, everything from toothpaste and shampoo to your best foundation and lipsticks will be kept separate and secure. You’ll be able to stay organised without having to worry about taking over the bathroom.

The raincoat in a bag

Raincoat in a bag

These are a must-have for your handbag no matter who you are, from a solo, experienced traveller to a mum who’s trying to keep control over a group of young children. Picking up a rain mac that folds away into a bag for easy storage can be one of the most useful accessories you’re ever likely to buy. No matter what country you visit, the chances of perfect weather for your entire stay are pretty slim, and keeping one of these on you at all times will make sure you don’t end up with a ruined outfit.

If you’d like some more ideas for travel accessories click here, or if you have some of your own, why not post them in the comments section?

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7 Free Things to Do in Brisbane http://www.travelwithamate.com/7-free-things-brisbane/ Thu, 15 Sep 2016 20:26:33 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30576 For some travellers, seeing the sights on a budget is what it’s all about. Being cost conscious and savvy about spending allows you to take more vacations and see more each time you travel some place. Whenever you are heading to a new destination, it is always a good idea to research ahead of time ...

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For some travellers, seeing the sights on a budget is what it’s all about. Being cost conscious and savvy about spending allows you to take more vacations and see more each time you travel some place. Whenever you are heading to a new destination, it is always a good idea to research ahead of time what you can do and see for free in that city. Chances are there are more than just a few things and a little advanced planning and research can extend your vacation dollar to the fullest. If you Hire a car with Budget Australia it’s one surefire way to save money. It also gives you the independence to go where you want to and keep to your own schedule. Once you have your own means of transportation, it also allows you to take advantage of some of the free things to do in a city without the need for a tour guide or paying extra for a bus or shuttle. Here are seven things you can do in Brisbane for free.

Brisbane’s City Botanic Gardens

Brisbane festival

Brisbane’s City Botanic Gardens are the oldest public gardens in Australia. They are unique, beautiful and bountiful; quite the site to see or stroll through. The gardens here include some rare and unusual botanic species, so you might see some plants and flowers that you haven’t seen anywhere else. The different areas of the gardens are the avenue of bunya pines, the mangrove boardwalk, the lily ponds, and a section on the rainforest. Volunteers are available Monday through Saturday for free guided walks. You can also bring your own lunch in and have a delightful picnic among the flowers and plants in the open grassy areas of the gardens. If you decide that you love Brisbane’s botanic gardens so much that you want to see more, head north for about a 15 minute drive to Mt Coot-tha Reserve Botanic Gardens. Visiting here is also free. It is different than the City Botanic Gardens because it is slightly more remote and lush. Plus, you can climb 287 metres to the top of Mt Coot-tha for amazing views over Moreton Bay.

Visit the Southbank

Brisbane south bank

South Bank of Brisbane Photo Credit: willislim

The South Bank is a very popular section of Brisbane. It is located on the south end of the Brisbane River and is loaded with restaurants, shops, and you can’t miss the 60 metre tall Wheel of Brisbane! Besides being able to walk around to see the sights for free, there are often cultural attractions, shows, and tours available for free. Entrance to some of the museums is free too.

Take a Ride on the City Hopper Boat

Brisbane hopper boat

The City Hopper ferry service is completely free. Ferries run along the Brisbane River every 30 minutes from 6am through midnight, 7 days a week. You can use it to get from one place to another in the city or just get on for a round trip tour. The stops the City Hopper makes are:

  • North Quay
  • South Bank 3
  • Maritime Museum
  • Thornton Street
  • Eagle Street Pier
  • Holman Street
  • Dockside
  • Sydney Street.

Fun at a Free Festival

Brisbane is the capital of Queensland and is a big metropolitan hub. There is almost always something going on. Perhaps you can even time your holiday in Brisbane with one of the free festivals that the city puts on each year.

  • The Valley Jazz Festival
  • The Queensland Music Festival in July
  • The Brisbane Festival in September
  • The Valley Fiesta in October

For a full list of up-to-date events in Brisbane, read up about it here on the VisitBrisbane.com.au website.

Tour one of Brisbane’s Museums

Brisbane museums

Museum of Brisbane Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Next to the South Bank is the Cultural Centre where you will find a host of museums, art galleries, and cultural venues. The great thing is that each one offers some type of free tour option. Of course, there are paid tours and ticketed events, but it’s nice to be able to mix and match what you want to see for free. Here is a list of the cultural venues here:

  • Queensland Art Gallery
  • Gallery of Modern Art
  • The State Library
  • Queensland Museum
  • Queensland Performing Arts Centre
  • The Queensland Theatre Company

Take a Short Scenic Road Trip

Brisbane scenic trips

Mount Nebo Photo Credit: Wikipedia

It’s hard to believe that this mountain wilderness is just 18 km from the big city of Brisbane. If you want to get away from the city and breathe some of the fresh mountain air, just head northwest of Brisbane to Mount Nebo and Mount Glorious. Enjoy the winding roads through the mountains and maybe stop for a picnic, fishing, or watersports at Somerset Dam. There is plenty to see within a short drive of Brisbane in every direction. You can plan to visit one of the state parks, a National Park, or one of the islands just off the coast.

Brisbane’s Beaches

Brisbane beaches

Wynnum Wading Pool Photo Credit: VisitBrisbane.com

For most travellers, this is a given, but it’s worth putting on our list. Everywhere you go, the beaches are free. There is usually an endless supply of fun, adventure, or relaxation among the sand and surf. Brisbane has some excellent beach options include:

  • Noosa Beach in Noosa National Park, the most visited national park in Australia.
  • Sunshine Beach, a less crowded option a little further north of Noosa.
  • Wynnum Wading Pool, a great option for kids because it only gets thigh high so it provides a safer option for kids to play in the shallow water but still get to experience the ocean and the beach.

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Where to go for winter sun holidays http://www.travelwithamate.com/where-winter-sun-holidays/ Tue, 06 Sep 2016 15:37:07 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=30563 here are places in this globe that offers options for people to visit after winter. People keep hunting for places where they can enjoy best winter sun destination that gives the best beautiful beaches, exotic scenes and music to enjoy. There are some big hitters like Brazil, Caribbean, and Maldives that offers a great escape ...

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here are places in this globe that offers options for people to visit after winter. People keep hunting for places where they can enjoy best winter sun destination that gives the best beautiful beaches, exotic scenes and music to enjoy. There are some big hitters like Brazil, Caribbean, and Maldives that offers a great escape chance to people. This article brings you the list of places that can be visited to enjoy the sun after winter.

Morocco

One of the exciting locations blessed with rich culture, Morocco has warm winters. The Atlantic coast has sandy beaches that are best for both adults and kids. Roll over the sandy dunes and finish the act to doze off under the stars of Saharan Sky.

best places for winter sun

Mauritius

One of the great places for winter sun, Mauritius is blessed with natural diversity. It is the paradise for those who love to hike up, drive and engage in underwater adventure. The best time to visit Mauritius is September- November when the climate is not much hot. The beaches here are real tropical paradise.

mauritius winter sunshine

Mexico

Yucantan Peninsula on the Atlantic Coast has a magical mixture of ancient and modern culture. The temperature is delightful and most adventure lovers visit to enjoy funky beach scene and explore the suffering region. Swim in the lakes, discover temples and enjoy the calm weather. To escape from the winter, Mexico is worth exploring.

Best winter sun holidays

Cuba

One of the amazing places to explore is Cuba which has a rich history and is still carrying it. Winter temperature is around 26 to 27 degree Celsius and has plenty of sunshine. Combined by beautiful long stretched beaches and warm climate, Cuba offers some great option for visitors to explore. Immerse yourself in the rich culture Cuba offers along with your kids.

Where to go this winter?

Maldives

One of the exotic honeymoon location, Maldives is the perfect location to enjoy warm climate. Tiny castaway, deep blue crystal clear water, white sand and exotic hotels, Maldives is a bliss that gives a complete nirvana to its visitors. Snorkelling, diving and other water sports are worth exploring and enjoying for hunt the coral reef. Not so winter location, witnesses’ huge number of tourists every year.

Maldives winter holidays

Canary Islands

Winters here are quite warm and has average temperature of about 20 degree Celsius. You can enjoy some adventure at the wildlife at Oasis Park, Timanfaya National Park and many other options to explore. The hotel where you’ll be accommodated should have heated pool to swim and get your body warm.

Canary Islands winter holidays

Kerala

One of the exotic locations in India, the average temperature here is 30 degree Celsius and 10 hours of sunshine is enough to keep you warm. Blessed with backwaters, glorious coastline complimented with coconut trees, makes this place a worth exploring. Enjoy staying at houseboat and is the best experience you can have.

Kerala winter holiday

So pack your bags and head to these places that are blessed with warm temperature and carries winter sun.

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