A Food Lover’s Guide to Europe

Posted on September 05, 2016

If you’re a true foodie, then travelling to sample Europe’s best dishes will be top of your bucket list. To help anyone planning a delicious European trip, we’ve listed our top five European destinations based on their food, plus information on key dishes to wet your appetite.

Italy

Italian food is now widely available all over the world, but there is nothing better than sampling authentic Italian cuisine. From crisp cut pizzas to aromatic lasagne and mouth-watering past dishes, every restaurant will have their own recipe (potentially passed down through generations), so make sure you visit a mix of high class and local restaurants to really sample the flavours on offer. P.S., if you love truffles, why not time your trip to coincide with truffle harvest season?

Key Dish: Pizza – this may not be an obvious choice for a true foodie, but pizza as we know it is nothing compared to the authentic pizza made in Italy. Travel to Naples, where pizza is thought to have originated, for some of the best.

France

For years France was considered the ‘fanciest’ and most indulgent food in the world, with French restaurants the choice for all celebratory dinners; and it’s not hard to see why. Your lunches should consist of delicious French cheeses, warm buttered baguettes and sumptuous pastries. Then in the evenings try oysters from Brittany, quiche Lorraine, steak frites and onion soup – to name just a few amazing dishes which should be on your list.

Key Dish: Pot-Au-Feu – a delicious and hearty stew made from seasonal meat and vegetables. Traditionally this dish would cook all winter long, with more ingredients added each week to replace what was eaten, giving you rich flavours and melt in the mouth chunks of meat.

Spain

Spanish food is fantastic for foodies who love to share, because they just keep on giving. Tapas is an amazing way to sample multiple dishes, from salty olives and cured meats, to spicy chorizo and fresh sea food. Always start your day with a Spanish tortilla (an onion, potato and egg omelette), and end your day with a giant pan of smoky paella.

Key Dish: Paella – there is nothing quite like an authentic Spanish Paella, again, each region and restaurant will have a slightly different restaurant, but the key to a good Paella is great flavours, fresh fish and soft rice.

Germany

If you’re on a diet then Germany is not the place for you. If you love to indulge your passion for food, then Germany will not disappoint. There aren’t many ‘light’ dishes on offer when it comes to traditional German food, but you will leave the table feeling happy and full. Just a few things to add to your list include; anything with sausage (bratswurst, bockwurst, frankfurters, landjäger, and weisswurst), anything with potato (kartoffelklöße and potato salad), krapfen donuts, schupfnudeln, spatzle and sauerkraut (pasta or noodle like dishes). P.S. Don’t forget to sample some famous German beer.

Key Dish: Sauerbraten – this dish is a real labour of love, as the meat should be marinated for three to four days before cooking, to ensure the flavours shine through. The dish is made from beef, vegetable and herbs – it is absolutely delicious.

Greece

Greek food is widely underrated, and well worth a spot in our top five. Let’s start with Greek meze – Feta cheese, salty olives, tzatziki, taramosalata, warm pitta bread, hummus, lemon potatoes and spanakopita. Then you have gyros, amazing fresh salads, moussaka, souvlaki, kleftiko, Stifado and Spetsofai. Then, if you can fit anymore in, desert should be baklava, or Greek yogurt covered in honey and nuts.

Key Dish: Moussaka – it is thought that Moussaka became a stable of Greek cooking in the 1920s, when an influential chef at the time included it in his cookbook. The dish is made from layers of aubergine, meat and béchamel sauce, similar to a lasagne but with a mouth-watering Greek twist.

Food poisoning on holiday

Being a food lover comes with its risks on holiday. Although more commonly associated with cruise ships, all-inclusive hotels and package holidays you still can get hit with food poisoning in restaurants whilst out and about. Luckily we offer single-trip travel insurance cover which cover food poisoning, and although we can’t re-coup the holiday time lost, we can provide cover for your medical bills.

How to Plan the Ultimate Romantic City Break

Posted on August 25, 2016

Sometimes we all need a break to disconnect with the stresses and strains of everyday life, and reconnect with the ones we love. Whether that means a quick weekend away or a full on holiday, we’ve packed this page full of tips and advice to plan the ultimate romantic city break.

Choosing a romantic destination

The destination you choose should reflect the type of trip you want to have. For example, do you want to take your partner on numerous sightseeing tours? Or would you as a couple prefer a taste of luxury with lots of shopping and fine dining? Whether you’re looking for a foodie paradise or a destination packed to the brim with historical sites, Europe is full of destinations just waiting to be explored.

Some of our favourites include;

  • Paris – known as the most romantic city in the world, Paris is the perfect place to wander hand in hand with the one you love.
  • Venice – take a gondola ride together to get the tip off to a romantic start, and then explore the canals, tiny streets and beautiful architecture.
  • Rome – if you and your partner love history and delicious Italian food, then Rome is the place for you.
  • Athens – another perfect destination for lovers of ancient history, soak up the sunshine and visit beautiful ruins.
  • Cannes – time your trip with the annual film festival for a true taste of celebrity luxury.
  • Reykjavik – spend your days relaxing in the Blue Lagoon, and your nights searching for the Northern Lights.
  • Lisbon – if you love art (both ancient and modern) and sunshine, then Lisbon is the next city break for you.
  • Barcelona – if you’re looking for a bit of everything – beach, sightseeing, fashion, food and nightlife, then Barcelona is the place for you.
  • Vienna – a captivating mix of historic and modern, Vienna has a whole host of grand architecture to see and a rich musical history.
  • Berlin – with over 170 museums outlining its fascinating history, plus a whole host of amazing shops and restaurants, Berlin is a must visit destination.

Booking your romantic city break away

So you’ve chosen your destination, now you need to do some serious research before booking your trip. Firstly, you will need to find out some seasonality information, so you don’t end up travelling during the wettest and gloomiest time of year. Start researching the costs of flights (both independently and part of package deals) so you get a good idea of budget.

Hotels and accommodation

Next, think about accommodation – do you want to treat yourselves and stay in a luxury hotel, or are you perfectly happy booking a cheap room? Also, do you want to be right in the middle of the city for sightseeing, or would you prefer to be further out to get some peace and quiet in the evenings? What are the transport links like?  Ask yourselves these questions and then start looking for places which meet your criteria and budget.

Holiday guides and travel resources

It is always advisable to do some final research on traveller reviews before booking – did other travellers enjoy staying at the hotel or were there any issues with their package holiday? Double check before you book just to ensure the hotel isn’t really too good to be true.

Our Tips and Advice section as well as our blog have a lot of great ideas for travelling as a couple.

What to Pack

Once you’ve decided when and where you’re going to go, you can start thinking about packing. Less is always more when it comes to a city break, so try to pack comfortable shoes and clothes for your day time excursions, and some smart outfits for your evenings – even if you aren’t planning going anywhere special, it’s always nice to dress up with your partner.

The final thing to pack is quality couple’s travel insurance, to protect you, your partner and your trip against any unexpected holiday disasters. Visit Holidaysafe.co.uk for more information on award winning city break travel insurance.

Further Reading:

10 of the most romantic holiday destinations for couples – http://www.holidaysafe.co.uk/single-multi-trip-travel-advice/10-romantic-holiday-destinations-couples/

How to plan a last minute city break – http://www.holidaysafe.co.uk/single-multi-trip-travel-advice/plan-last-minute-city-break/

5 of the most romantic destinations to propose – http://www.holidaysafe.co.uk/single-multi-trip-travel-advice/five-romantic-destinations-propose/

10 Alternative City Break Destinations

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There a few key destinations which will instantly spring to mind when most people think about a city break; Paris, Rome and Amsterdam are just a few of the most popular. However, if you’re looking for a fresh spin on the city break, then we’ve listed our top 10 alternative destinations for you to try.

Traditional countries, fresh city break ideas

The capital cities are of course a massive tourist draw, with sites to see and culture to soak up. We have to remember though, that most countries in Europe have a rich history with many of the cities outside the capital still offering many activities, sites and still offering great food and drink. See our choices below for the top alternative city break destinations located in a familiar Country.

Bologna, Italy

If your idea of the perfect city break is amazing food, architecture and a young atmosphere, then Bologna is the place for you. Most visitors to Bologna go for its beautiful religious architecture, but the university town has a whole host of fantastic restaurants and a range of events happening all the time, for example the Bilbolbul international comic festival which takes place every November.

 

Granada, Spain

Granada is the city break destination that just keeps giving. Spend your days relaxing on the beach, eating delicious tapas, exploring the Spanish/Muslim architecture, soaking up the young atmosphere or skiing! The city is right next to the Sierra Nevada, the highest point in Spain, which not only provides spectacular views, but also allows visitors to Grenada the chance to enjoy winter and summer all in one day.

 

Marseille, France

Just over 6 hours away by Eurostar, Marseille is a fantastic alternative city break destination to the more traditional (and busy) options. Explore Quartier du Panier, the city’s oldest area, for fantastic shops, cafes, galleries and architecture like the Nôtre-Dame de la Garde. For a younger side of Marseille, head for places like the Friche La Belle de Mai, which offers a rooftop bar and open air cinema.

 

Turin, Italy

Home to the 2006 Winter Olympics, Turin has since been through an urban revival, which has seen the contemporary, architecture and design scene blossom throughout the city. Not only is the city utterly charming and stunning, but it also gave us the first saleable hard chocolate, and displays the ‘Shroud of Turin’, a cloth bearing the image of a man (which Christians believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus).

 

Reykjavik, Iceland

Most people wouldn’t immediately consider a city break in a cold destination, but Reykjavik really is an amazing destination, and in one weekend you could tick a few things off your bucket list. Firstly, the Northern Lights can be seen from Reykjavik (best time of year is January to March) and specialist tours are readily available and very affordable. Secondly, a visit to the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle are a must to truly understand Iceland’s natural beauty. Thirdly, the city itself is full of kind people, amazing bars and restaurants plus great shops.

 

Valletta, Malta

Malta is a beautiful destination, but is capital really is a sight to behold. Built by the Knights of St John in the 16th century, the walled city has some must see sights, including Fort St Angelo (the city’s oldest fort) and the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a burial complex cut into the rock. In 2018 Valletta will be crowned ‘the city of culture’, so there is also a whole host of bars and restaurants to explore – make sure you try some delicious and traditional pork or rabbit dishes.

Eastern European city break adventures

If you are looking to save some money, and see a city unlike the traditional Paris, Rome or Berlin then looking further afield to eastern Europe might be the best choice you could make. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far then Eastern Europe is a great choice with generally cheaper accommodation, food and drinks to be had.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

The capital of Slovenia is considered a hidden gem for many, due to the beautiful historic buildings in the Old Town (including a castle and the St Nicholas Cathedral), captivating streets and amazing views of the mountains. However, Ljubljana is also a great destination for adrenaline fuelled activities, including skiing (in the winter months), white water rafting, hiking and mountain biking.

 

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

If you’re passionate about history then Sarajevo is an excellent option for you. The city was a flash point for the First World War, and also went through four years of war and the devastating siege of Sarajevo. The Tunnel of Hope and Galerija 11/07/95 museums both attempt to explain the city’s violent history, and are well worth a visit between the many art galleries. Explore the cobbled streets, and take plenty of breaks to sample traditional coffee and pastries.

 

Wroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw is Europe’s 2016 ‘city of culture’, and with the eclectic mix of operas, concerts, galleries, theatres and post-punk communes, it isn’t hard to see why. However, the city also has an interesting past which is well worth exploring, including the old town’s beautiful bridges and parks, plus Cathedral Island which is full of gothic architecture.

A unique city break to spice up your life

Marrakech, Morocco

If you want to experience a difference culture, then Marrakech is a fantastic option which doesn’t involve a long haul flight (under four hours from the UK and easily accessible from Spain). The old town and souks really are an assault on the sense, with so many people, stalls, sights and smells to take in. Make sure you haggle before you buy anything (they expect it), stick to your route and don’t be led astray by ‘helpful’ local guides. However, the most important thing to do in Marrakech is to wander the streets and take everything in.

 

Visit Holidaysafe.co.uk for more information on award winning city break travel insurance.

Further Reading:

How to plan a last minute city break – http://www.holidaysafe.co.uk/single-multi-trip-travel-advice/plan-last-minute-city-break/

Top 10 short breaks from the UK – http://www.holidaysafe.co.uk/single-multi-trip-travel-advice/top-10-short-breaks-from-the-uk/

Top 10 city destinations in Europe – http://www.holidaysafe.co.uk/single-multi-trip-travel-advice/top-10-city-destinations/

 

 

How to Plan a Last Minute City Break

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Sometimes we all need to escape the rate race, so why not use your next piece of free time to plan a last minute city break? You could travel somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit, or simply explore a new and exciting destination.

Planning a last minute trip may seem daunting, but we’ve packed this page full and tips and advice for planning the perfect city break on very short notice.

Picking a city break Destination

The key to being spontaneous is not being picky – it only slows you down. Before booking anything you will need to do some research on the best destinations to visit at the time of year you want to travel. You might find some amazing deals on certain destinations, but the cheap prices could be because you’ll get rain the entire time. Think about seasonality so you can make the most of the destinations – for example, September is a great time to visit Rome because the peak season is coming to an end but the weather is still great for sightseeing.

Tip: The EasyJet inspire me tool is great for looking at destinations around Europe. Simply select your dates, airport and budget and view all the destinations in Europe which you can visit. Again great for being spontaneous! http://www.easyjet.com/en/inspireMe

Finding the Best Deal

After deciding on a few destination options, start doing some serious research on prices. Websites such as Lastminute.com specialise in last minute trips, and many similar tour operators will have last minute deals which are worth a look. It’s also worth checking accommodation and airline websites separately to see if you can find a better price by booking each stage individually (remember, if you book independently you won’t have ATOL protection, but there is little threat of cancellation when the trip is last minute). Airlines are said to charge up to 15 different prices for each seat, so check a few times to get the best deal.

Before you book, make sure you do some sleuthing on your destination and accommodation. Not only do you want to ensure the accommodation has good customer reviews and won’t be a waste of money, you also want to check its proximity to key landmarks you want to visit, or good transport links. Make a plan of all the places you want to visit before you leave, and invest in a quality local map to ensure you fit everything in.

What to Pack

This totally depends on your destination of choice and the time of year, but its always advisable to pack a super comfortable pair of walking shoes which will support your feet – the last thing you want is to be in agony after only a few hours of sightseeing. A lightweight raincoat is always a good thing to pack each day (just in case), along with a quality local map, UV sunglasses, a camera, money and travel guide/translator (in case you get lost).

Safety

Unfortunately crime will always be higher in more densely populated cities, and some pickpockets or scam artists are known for targeting tourists specifically. Make sure you choose a day bag which zips up securely and is always in your sight (backpacks are comfortable but make sure no one can reach in behind you). Leave your passport in the hotel safe if at all possible (emergency travel documents aren’t cheap if you lose it), don’t carry all of your money with you, and make sure you know how to contact the emergency services.

 

Finally, before you depart make sure you invest in quality city break travel insurance, to protect yourself and your trip against any holiday disasters such as medical emergency or lost possessions.

Further Reading:

10 Alternative City Break Destinations – http://www.holidaysafe.co.uk/10-alternative-city-break-destinations/

Top 10 short breaks from the UK – http://www.holidaysafe.co.uk/single-multi-trip-travel-advice/top-10-short-breaks-from-the-uk/

Top 10 city destinations in Europe – http://www.holidaysafe.co.uk/single-multi-trip-travel-advice/top-10-city-destinations/

10 of the Most Romantic Holiday Destinations for Couples

Posted on July 18, 2016

Travel in itself is a romantic notion; exploring exotic and far off places with the love of their life is one of the most romantic things for couples to do together. To help anyone looking for romantic holiday destinations, we’ve listed our top 10 romantic holiday destinations for couples.

Bali, Indonesia

Bali is easily one of the most picturesque destinations in Southeast Asia, but it is the island’s culture and traditions that keep travellers coming back year after year. By day, visit 15th Century temples and beautiful waterfalls before relaxing together to enjoy breath-taking sunsets over clear blue waters.

Bali

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Home of the Tango, Argentina is a country filled with passion and romance, which almost demands that visitors dance the night away. Spend your days watching ballet or opera, and wondering around the many restaurants, parks and boutiques in Palermo.

Buenos Aires

Cancun, Mexico

Cancun can sometimes have a bad reputation thanks to colleague ‘Spring Break’ each year, however outside of this time; Cancun is a relaxing and gorgeous destination. The resort city has a young and energetic energy teemed with a laid back atmosphere, making it the perfect destination for younger couples. Note – the Zika virus is currently present in Mexico.

Cancun

Florida Keys, Florida

If you love the US, then visit the Florida Keys for a romantic stateside trip for couples. Stroll hand in hand through the quaint town and along its lovely beaches and palm lined streets. Indulge in world class restaurants, atmospheric bars and relaxing cafes.

Florida

Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives

If you and your partner are all about luxury, then head to Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives. You’ll stay in private bungalows on stilts perched above the Indian Ocean’s turquoise waters, and enjoy a private butler, yacht, pool, and rooftop beds for stargazing.

Maldives

Kerala, India

Pristine beaches, tropical forests, world renowned spa treatments, beautiful waterfalls, stunning wildlife and rolling hills combine in Kerala to create the perfect couples destination. For true peace and quiet, visit the North for rolling hills, tea plantations and fewer tourists. However, no trip to Kerala would be complete without booking into a spa and enjoying some restorative treatments.

Kerala

Maui, Hawaii

With stunning white sand beaches, lush valleys and historic villages to explore, Maui really is a paradise island destination. You can choose to spend your days sun worshipping together, or you can trek to Haleakala National Park (the island’s highest lookout point) and take in 360 degree views of the park’s volcanic crater. Top tip, winter is humpback whale season!

Hawaii

Paris, France

The ‘city of light’ is easily one of the most romantic cities in the world. Whether you’re strolling along the Seine, marvelling at the Eiffel Tower at night or enjoying a romantic candlelight dinner at a delicious bistro, the romantic ambiance of Paris is hard to ignore. Fill your days with hand-in-hand sightseeing and your nights enjoying sumptuous food and wine.

Paris

Santorini, Greece

The islands of Greece all offer their own little taste of romance, but Santorini tops the list with its famous blue roofed buildings and fabulous views. Swim in infinity pools overlooking the sea, or head to the beach for crystal clear waters and awe-inspiring sunsets you’ll never forget.

Santorini

Venice, Italy

Venice must be one of the most well-known cities in the world for romance. Every couple should take a gondola ride along one of Venice’s manay canals at one point during their relationship, and then spend the rest of the trip exploring the unique architecture of the city and it’s mysterious passageways.

Venice
 

Now you’ve got the destination sorted, just remember to invest in quality travel insurance to protect yourself and your partner against any expensive and unexpected holiday disasters. Find out more about our couples travel insurance.

Further Reading:

Top 10 couples holiday destinations – http://www.holidaysafe.co.uk/single-multi-trip-travel-advice/top-10-couples-holiday-destinations/
Getting married abroad – http://www.holidaysafe.co.uk/single-multi-trip-travel-advice/getting-married-abroad/

Single Trip vs Multi Trip Travel Insurance – Choosing the Right Policy

Posted on March 17, 2016

With so many travel insurance policies available, it can be difficult to know which one is best for you. When it comes to single and multi-trip travel insurance, it’s important to know the variations, as it could mean the difference between losing and saving money.

The key differences

Single trip insurance policies are designed for people who only take one or two holidays a year, whether that is a short trip to the Algarve or a three-week jaunt in Japan. Wherever you decide to go, you must ensure that the insurance covers you for the entire trip.

Multi-trip policies, on the other hand, are for those lucky enough to enjoy more than two journeys a year. These policies are often better value for money than buying single trip cover for each separate holiday you take. Multi-trip policies should allow you to take as many journeys a year as you like, but double-check for any restrictions before you buy.

Moreover, most policies will limit the length each trip can be (usually between 31 and 45 days). Again, read up on any restrictions before making a purchase, as you don’t want to be left without cover halfway through your journey.

Things to consider when booking a single or multi-trip policy

Whatever policy you’ve decided to opt for, there are a number of things you must take into account before putting down any money.

Where are you going on your travels? This is important to know, as most insurance companies have separate cover for Europe and the rest of the world; some worldwide policies even exclude the US, Canada and the Caribbean, so be sure to check. If you’re unsure what type of cover you need, ask the travel insurance company first.

There are many different levels of cover too, so you need to ensure you’re picking the one that best suits your requirements. You might be working or volunteering during your trip, or participating in activities such as football or snorkeling. If this is the case, you may need a particular type of cover.

Every policy will offer basic medical cover for unexpected or new injuries and illnesses, and we suggest your cover includes at least two million pounds of emergency medical cover and repatriation; although this figure should be closer to £5 million if you’re travelling outside of the European Union.

To ensure you are covered for all medical emergencies, all existing medical conditions must be declared before you purchase travel insurance. If you do not, or fail to check that the policy covers your condition, you could be left out of pocket should you require medical treatment abroad, which can be incredibly expensive.

The cancellation cover must be enough to encompass the pre-paid cost of your trips(s). The cost of emergency items of clothing should also be accounted for in case your bags are lost by your airline, as well as your baggage and personal possessions if they are lost, damaged or stolen.

Remember that once you’ve purchased your policy, you have 14 days to ensure that it’s the right cover for you, so read through it thoroughly. If you have any questions, ask your insurer to answer them as soon as possible.

 

Getting Married Abroad

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More and more people are opting to get married away from home, with the lure of stunning beach weddings or exotic ceremonies. However, getting married abroad can be quite difficult; if you have not done the correct research and finalised the right paperwork, your wedding may not go ahead. In this article we have compiled a handy guide to all things you will need to consider before getting married abroad.

Planning a wedding abroad

Before you start planning your wedding, it’s a good idea to firstly check that you can get married in your country of choice. The UK Government website has a great quick quiz tool that will tell you what you need to do before getting married in your chosen country. We recommend that you contact the authorities for your desired country and check what processes and procedures you need to follow. If you do these correctly, your marriage will be recognised when you return to the UK. Depending on which country you want to get married in, you may be asked to obtain certain documents from the British government beforehand.

Once you have selected your date, you need to choose the right destination for that time of year. For example, you may like the look of Bali, but if you plan on getting married in their monsoon seasons it is best to give it a miss. It is also good to remember that while long haul flights cost more, you may get more for your money while you’re over there thanks to the exchange rate.

Legal requirements

Before getting married in another country, you should ensure that your marriage will be recognised when you return to the UK. You should research the country you plan on wedding in, and then contact the foreign embassy for that country to find out accurate information on their legal requirements. In the case that it won’t be valid in the UK, many people choose to have a quick legal ceremony at the registry office upon their return home.

You will need to check that you meet not only the legal requirements of the country you want to get married in, but also those of your home country. Common documents that you may need include having at least six months validity on your passport, certificate of no impediment and proof of residence.

In some countries, civil ceremonies are the only type of ceremony that have a legal status. In this instance, if you wish to have a religious ceremony you will also need to have a civil one to validate your marriage.

Local customs and traditions

Getting married abroad will add culture to your wedding, and there is no reason why you can’t embrace the local traditions during your ceremony! With so many different countries having many extraordinary traditions, it’s always good to do your research on them and choose ones which will suit your style. Some examples of these are:

• In the Philippines, the bride and groom release a dove each to symbolise their peaceful and long life together
• Brides and grooms in Germany saw a log in half together to show that they are able to overcome any obstacles that they may face in their lives together
• The Scots have a ceremony called the ‘Blackening of the Bride’ which includes throwing ash, tar, feathers and other substances over the bride to avoid evil spirits
• In Poland, any man who dances with the bride will pin money to her dress to help pay for the honeymoon. This is called the Money Dance
• Mexican brides carry two bouquets, one for herself and one for the Virgin Mary

You can find extensive lists of traditions online that will give you all of the information that you need including the history behind them and their meanings. Take a look at the country you want to get married in and see what fun customs you can work into your day!

Top destinations for weddings

Usually when people are looking to get married abroad, it is because they want to get away from the unpredictable English weather and into the sunshine. There is no surprise that Caribbean islands and exotic locations are the most popular destinations for weddings abroad.

Cyprus features picturesque beaches, lush green grounds and perfect blue skies, which makes it a favourite destination for weddings. There are many hotels that overlook the sea for you to pick from, as well as being able to choose between indoor and outdoor ceremonies. Most venues like this will have their own wedding packages that you can book, which include your wedding, reception, room, decorations and sometimes entertainment. Popular places in Cyprus for weddings are Paphos, Ayia Napa and Protaras.

The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean nation which shares an island with Haiti. It is known for its white sandy beaches and clear seas, as well as the great weather year round. Most weddings here take place outdoors, with many opting for gazebos, marques and pergolas to add an air of elegance whilst keeping you and your guests out of the heat. There are airports dotted around the nation, making it easy for you plan your transport.

The USA has always been a popular destination for weddings abroad, thanks to the many choices of states. Vegas is a common choice, where getting hitched is quick and easy and then it’s on to The Strip for the after party! Florida is also a popular choice thanks to its great weather and beaches, making it perfect for an outdoor beach wedding. With Paris being the romance capital, it plays host to a huge number of weddings each year.

You can choose from a large variety of hotels, many offering beautiful grounds and great catering, enabling you to embrace the wonders of French cuisine for your wedding breakfast.

It also means that you can have your photos taken with the iconic Eiffel Tower as a backdrop, creating memories to cherish forever.

 

Planning a Hen or Stag Party Abroad

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Hen and stag parties are a great excuse for friends to get together and ensure the upcoming bride or groom has at least one amazing night of freedom before tying the knot. These events are far more than just a cultural rite of passage; they are a centuries old tradition where individuals band together to make memories which will last a lifetime.

Although many choose to organise their stag or hen parties in the UK, around 50 per cent of us reportedly head abroad. Men traditionally enjoy their city breaks, in locations such as a Prague or Amsterdam, while women tend to head to the sunnier climates of Spain or Portugal to soak up some much needed rays.

Whatever the destination, the maid of honour or best man traditionally plans to ensure the celebration is as memorable as it possibility can be. As this is a lot of pressure, we have created the following guide to make sure that your stag or hen party goes off without a hitch; and with as little stress as possible!

 

First steps to organising a stag/hen party

If there’s one piece of advice you take away from this guide, it’s this: always plan well in advance of the event. It may sound obvious, but there is always so much to organise, as the following points demonstrate:

Guest list

The first step to organising any hen or stag party is to create a guest list. While many would prefer to keep such details a secret from the stag or hen, it may well be worth consulting them, even if it’s just to obtain a list of must-have friends or family members.

Although you’ve known them for a long time, it is unlikely you’ve met every single one of their friendship groups. Checking with them before creating the guest list will ensure that no one is accidently left out.

The budget

Directly related to the guest list, this budget will determine how many friends or family members are invited as well as the activities you can participate in. To give you some idea of how much a stag or hen party usually costs, men reportedly spend an average of £512 per person on their gatherings while women tend to be slightly less extravagant; opting for an average of £320 per person.

Fortunately, with many stag and hen parties, packages do not have to be paid in one lump sum. It is often possible to organise these in instalments which might make budgeting and saving for the occasion that much simpler.

These budgets ought to be relatively flexible and guests should be allowed a reasonable amount of time to save up. After all, it would be a shame to price out one of the bride or groom’s best friends.

The date

Create a timeframe and make sure all the guests are aware of when the stag or hen party will be taking place. This allows them to reserve the date in their calendars and ensure it doesn’t clash with anything important.

Traditionally the festivities took place the night before the wedding, but with so many stag and hen parties happening abroad now, picking a date a month or so before the wedding is becoming the norm. This helps with budgeting as of course weddings often involve an overnight stay – and it allows plenty of time for eyebrows and hair to re-grow!

Again, it is worth checking with the bride or groom to ensure that the date doesn’t fall on anything they have planned. Can you imagine if they couldn’t turn up to their own party?

Best destinations and activities

We’ve already determined that when looking for stag or hen parties abroad, men tend to prefer city breaks while women usually head to Spain. However, these are not the only destinations for creating great memories.

As these parties are once in a lifetime opportunities, you would be forgiven for planning something truly extravagant. Yet, it’s no coincidence that many occur within Europe as budgetary constraints often prevent groups from heading too far from the UK.

To help you plan a great stag or hen party abroad, we have created a shortlist of destinations which is sure to give you some inspiration:

Amsterdam

A traditional favourite, the capital of Holland has something for everyone. Whether sampling some culture in its many museums or partying in the numerous bars and clubs, both hens and stags can have a wonderful time here.

Prague

Not a city instantly associated with hen or stag parties, the area has a range of exciting bars, restaurants, and clubs to keep groups happy. There are also usually river cruises and white water rafting available on the nearby Vltava River.

Berlin

Regarded as the ‘party capital of Germany’, Berlin has everything you could reasonably want from a stag or hen party. With numerous activities in the city to choose from, there are also more exotic events such as indoor skiing and adventure courses.

Ibiza

No hen or stag party list would be complete without mentioning Ibiza. A great place to let your hair down; the sun, sea, and sand will make for a great party experience. Furthermore, this was Wayne Rooney’s destination of choice when he and his friends enjoyed their stag party. There’s nothing quite like a celebrity endorsement is there?

Tallinn

Located in the cold north of Estonia, Tallinn is quickly gaining a reputation as the place to be for stag and hen parties. While this medieval masterpiece certainly has its charms, it also has some of the best activities around, such as motor paintball and shooting packages.

Although this list should give you an idea of the destinations available, we haven’t even touched on the activities yet. We have listed some of our favourites below:

  • Paintballing; a firm favourite amongst groups, Tallinn has improved upon this formula by adding vehicles into the mix.
  • Shooting; a quick adrenaline fix, various companies throughout Europe offer shooting experiences with a number of instantly recognisable firearms, such as AK47s, 44s, and shotguns.
  • Assault courses; a great team bonding exercise, prove that you and your friends are good enough to make it through these challenges.
  • Horse riding; relive the days of the Old West by participating in a horseback riding experience. It’s a great way to see the sights as well!
  • Boating; a safe bet for any stag or hen party, these range from high-speed powerboats to relaxing cruises. Pick something to suit your theme!
  • Spa day; a great option to unwind and relax after the day’s activities, a pampering session is definitely a good move.
  • Treasure hunting; taking a break from the action, these fun games can often be designed yourself and can lead groups to several great locations.
  • Extreme driving; from racing cars to tanks, these activity days will provide entertaining anecdotes for months.
  • Chocolate making; an extremely popular activity – after all, who doesn’t want to spend a day eating chocolate?
  • Photoshoot; often a neglected idea, it is worth documenting these days with a professional photoshoot. The images will also be wonderful conversation pieces for years to come.

 

Essential things to plan beforehand

With the destinations and the guest list planned, it is tempting to sit back, relax and call it a day for a few weeks. However, some things are best to organise as soon as possible. Not only will this ensure peace of mind in the build-up to the celebration, but it could actually save you some money.

Flights

Sometimes, when journeying abroad, the flights are the most expensive part of the holiday; especially if left to the last minute. Plan well in advance, determine the best deals, and make sure it’s one of the first things you organise.

Accommodation

Something which is often overlooked, finding the right accommodation for a stag or hen party is absolutely essential. For example, those enjoying the centre of a busy capital would benefit by organising a hotel close to underground and other transport links.

In a similar fashion, those planning a quiet retreat should consider a location separated from the hustle and bustle of a busy area. Just make sure that you’ve got the size of the group sorted before booking the accommodation.

What does the FCO say?

Before venturing to a new country, it is worth reading up on that nation’s laws. For example, some have strict guidelines about being drunk in public and other disorderly behaviour. To make sure your gathering doesn’t cause offence, visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to obtain the latest information.

Get travel insurance

Something you cannot afford to be without, ensure every person in your party has purchased travel insurance before heading abroad. In the event anything goes wrong, such as important documents go missing or an individual suffers an injury, this should ensure that you’re covered. If travelling in Europe, also make sure that everyone has an EHIC card.

The final checklist

The advice mentioned above should ensure your hen or stag party goes off without a hitch. However, as these can be stressful things to organise, we’ve included a final checklist of ideas to make sure the gathering is as good as it possibly can be.

Organise an ice-breaker activity

When organising guest lists, it is highly unlikely that everyone will know each other. Consequently, arranging a small activity, such as a team building exercise, will create a fun environment where guests can get to know each other.

Ensure this is what the bride/groom wants

A hen/stag party is all about the bride or groom to be. Therefore, ensure that you have their aims fresh in your mind when organising and keep these at the forefront of everything you do. For example, you might enjoy the idea of paintballing, but will they feel the same way?

Prepare for every eventuality

Always prepare for the unexpected while abroad and make sure you have one or two backup plans up your sleeve. For example, if you discover when you get there that the bar you really wanted to visit has closed down, ensure you can access the internet on your phone to find a quick alternative.

Swap numbers

Stag and hen parties can get pretty hectic. Guests can get separated from each other and time can be wasted tracking everyone down. Therefore, before leaving, make sure everyone has each other’s contact details so missing party members can be located swiftly.

Make sure everyone knows what to bring

Depending on what activities you’ve got planned, ensure that everyone is prepared. For example, those participating in quad biking or adventure courses should make sure they’re wearing old clothes which can handle a bit of punishment. Similarly, a fancy dress theme will be ruined if one person forgets to pack a certain outfit.

To summarise, make sure everyone is prepared for the party.

Don’t overly involve the groom/bride

There are some situations (mentioned above) where it’s beneficial to involve the bride or groom in the decision making process. However, generally speaking, their involvement should be kept to a minimum. After all, these individuals are busy planning the wedding; they have enough on their plates.

Advice for Festival Travellers

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With more and more festivals popping up, both in the UK and abroad, people are travelling far and wide in search of the ultimate festival experience. Whether you are planning a weekend catching the beats at one of the excellent dance festivals in Europe, or rocking out in the mud to your favourite band; it’s well worth being prepared so that you can relax and enjoy the party atmosphere.

 

Festival success

Here are our top tips for festival success;

  • Plan how you will get to the festival; look at time frames and costs, so you can be properly prepared.
  • Always let someone know where you are going, take emergency phone numbers with you, plus a map of the festival site.
  • Don’t bring valuables; it’s just not worth it! Valuables and festivals should not mix, imagine returning to your tent and finding your laptop has gone, or breaking your camera whilst moshing. Leave the valuables at home.
  • Check what is and isn’t allowed at the festival with the event’s coordinators. For example are you allowed to cook food on the site? What facilities are there? Remember that glass bottles probably aren’t allowed on site.
  • Check the FCO website before you travel and familiarise yourself with the laws and local customs of the country you are visiting, just to be safe. Most places have different rules about drugs, alcohol and behaviour; you don’t want to be arrested and carted away for something you thought was fine.
  • Always get travel insurance, it will protect you if you face a festival disaster – for example a medical emergency.
  • If you do find yourself in a difficult situation abroad, call your travel insurance company as soon as possible. They should be able to advise you how to proceed if your possessions are lost or broken, or if you need medical attention. Most festivals have a great medical and security presence, so always attract them for emergency help.
  • Do not pack too much! Remember you are going to carry this bag everywhere, so be ruthless and only pack what you really need.

Festival checklist

Depending on the weather, duration and location, you should include;

Sunscreen

Should you be lucky enough to get some great weather during your festival experience then make sure you have sunscreen with you. The heat teamed with minimal shelter can end in some bad sunburn, not to mention embarrassing tan lines! Stay safe with the highest factor you can buy.

Waterproof coat

You can never predict the weather these days, even if you are enjoying a festival abroad. Don’t get caught out in the rain by ensuring you have a waterproof coat with you. Getting soaked and having to deal with soggy clothes for the duration of your stay is less than ideal.

Tent and sleeping bag

These are vital; if you forget your tent or sleeping bag then you are basically without a home for the festival! To ensure you don’t forget these make sure they’re the first things you pack and you’ll have somewhere cosy to rest at night. Your friends will be thankful that they don’t have to share their one man tent with you…

Comfortable shoes (waterproof)

As you will be on your feet for hours on end at the festival, it’s a good idea to make sure that you have comfortable shoes that you know won’t cause you any grief. It’s also a good idea to invest in some waterproof shoes should the weather let you down. They will also protect your feet from muddy floors and alcohol soaked fields.

Mobile phone

Mobile phones are always a good idea to have on you during a festival as it is very easy to get separated from your friends among the crowds. However, it is known that thieves sometimes have a field day at festivals so it’s not the best idea to bring your brand new smart phone with you. Instead, invest in a cheap mobile from your local supermarket that won’t go amiss should it get lost or stolen.

Condoms

Whether you are male or female, it’s a good idea to pack condoms in your case. Should you happen to meet someone that you take a liking to it’s always important to practise safe sex. Ladies, carry some on you in case your companion doesn’t happen to have any on him.

Multi-purpose hygienic wipes

Getting dirty at a festival is guaranteed. There will almost certainly be mud, alcohol and sweaty crowds, with the showers attracting long queues. Multi-purpose wipes are perfect for giving yourself an easy clean up without having to queue for ages.

Deodorant

Keeping yourself feeling fresh and clean is needed at a festival. As you will most likely be confined in a small space (namely crowds) it’s a good idea to make sure you’re smelling fresh and are protected against sweat once it starts getting warm.

Toilet roll

Yes, the festival will have toilet roll but it will probably only last an hour. Make sure that you don’t get caught short by taking toilet roll with you. This can also come in handy if any spillages occur in your tent.

At least one change of clothes

Depending on how long you are at the festival for, you may need more than this. It’s a good idea to bring a change of clothes should the weather get colder or your current outfit gets dirty or wet. No one likes to be uncomfortable so bring a second outfit so you can remain happy.

Plastic bags

These will come in handy for your dirty/wet shoes and clothes. When it comes to packing up and leaving your festival experience you’ll be glad you brought them with you as it will protect the rest of your belongings in your bag.

Health advice

With so much excitement surrounding festivals it can be easy to forget to look after yourself, and the last thing you need is to catch an illness or feel unwell when you’re trying to have a good time.

If you drink alcohol then chances are you’ll be drinking at the festival but it is important to know your limits. Drinking and having fun is fine but try to keep track of how many drinks you have had otherwise you will find yourself feeling sick. Remember to drink water at intervals in order to keep you hydrated and to help avoid a hangover the next day. You don’t want to miss out on your favourite act because you have a headache!

If you require special medication make sure you bring it with you as on-site first aiders are not allowed to give you anything other than over-the-counter drugs. You can leave any medication that you have with the medical centre if you think that you may need it in an emergency.

It is always important to practice safe sex which is why we recommend taking contraception with you. Although many females are on some form of contraception at the present, it is still a good idea to pack condoms, as contraceptives such as the pill, the implant and the coil do not protect against STIs. If you need emergency contraceptive such as the morning after pill or condoms you will find them available from medics.

Staying safe

Keeping an eye on your valuables is important at a festival as if you have anything on display it could make you a target. If you need to bring valuables with you, most festivals have locker facilities for you to use to keep your valuables in. You can also make friends with your neighbours as you can look out for each other’s tents, although be wary they are strangers so don’t trust them with your valuables.

If in the event that you get separated from your friends, it’s a good idea to arrange meeting places for certain times of the day, for example ‘we will meet here at 2pm, 6pm and 1am’. This means if someone gets lost or you break off into smaller groups, you’ll be able to find each other again. It is also important to keep checking the battery levels on your phone. You don’t want your mobile dying when you need it the most. Most festivals have mobile charging points to allow you to charge up should you require it.

Be careful with your drinks. Anyone can spike your drink and you don’t have to be drinking alcohol for it to happen, soft drinks are also targets. Be sure to have your drink in your sight at all times and look out for your friends drinks as well, it only takes a moment whilst your back is turned.

Staycations and UK Holiday Ideas

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In an age where international travel is so effortless, it can be easy to forget about the comparative ease and simplicity of a domestic holiday. Often known as a ‘staycation’, UK holidays can prove every bit as exotic and exciting as one abroad, often for a fraction of the cost, and with far less associated stress! Staycations traditionally constitute staying at home, and visiting local, often overlooked attractions. So if the thought of long haul flights and having to learn the basics of another language fill you with dread, a staycation here in the UK could be exactly what you’re looking for!

 

The benefits of holidaying in the UK

It stands to reason that staycations wouldn’t have achieved their current popularity if there weren’t considerable benefits attached to such an undertaking. The concept of a staycation sheds almost all of the complication and excess of a holiday abroad; leading to plentiful advantages.

  • Cheaper than travelling abroad – holiday travel, accommodation and living costs are drastically cut-down.
  • Drastically less stressful – all you have to do to go on a staycation is book some time off, and wake up in the morning; there’s no packing, no important documents to look after, and no deadlines besides those that you impose upon yourself.
  • No language barriers – A staycation means it’s English all the way.
  • No acclimatisation necessary – you’re home after all, you know what to expect from local conditions
  • No additional medical requirements – no unpleasant inoculations, dangerous animals, or questionable food and drink sources; just what you already know and trust.
  • Get the most out of the local community – a staycation gives you the opportunity to explore and find the best that your community has to offer.
  • Your considerations come first – there’s no need to worry about seasonal changes or availability of accommodation; when you want to embark upon a staycation, the only barrier is when you’re able to take time off work.

 

Tips for your staycation

Just because you intend to be travelling in more local climes, there’s still a wide range of travel tips that you may find useful to take on board prior to embarking on your trip. Some will save you money, some will preserve your sanity; all are aimed at making your staycation that much more enjoyable!

  • Keep an eye on your finances – it’s easy to get lax with your spending when on a staycation; you haven’t been charged for currency exchange, flights, or (in some cases) accommodation, which can make you feel a bit like you can go crazy and excessively splash out. To ensure that you truly receive good value for money from your staycation it’s essential that you remain in close control of your cash reserves!
  • Stay away from work – When staying at home, it’s all too easy to fall back into your everyday routine; checking emails and once again becoming a slave to your phone. Never forget that, during your staycation, you are still on holiday! Your boss can wait until you return for that important report; use your time off to properly unwind.
  • Ease off the chores – If you’re on a family staycation, ensure that all of the housework that can’t be put off, is shared between everyone. Similarly, cooking duties should either be shared, or avoided completely through the liberal use of takeaways ad eating out; no one said a staycation had to be healthy!
  • Get some ‘me’-time – everyone needs a break from those that are dependent on them sometimes; whether this is children, elderly relatives, pets… organise some day-care or babysitter cover, to ensure that you are able to get some time to unwind.

 

When should you go on your staycation?

One of the central advantages of a staycation is that they can be undertaken whenever you wish; the only real restrictions on when you take such a holiday are those that you impose yourself. For example, whether you take one during Summer or Winter is entirely up to you; your desire to go for brisk winter walks, or visit the beer garden of that pub that you have never previously found the time to enjoy, may inform your choice of ideal season. Alternatively, seasonal sporting needs may rule the day; if you’re a tennis fan, summer is a safe bet in terms of both playing and spectating.

Some considerations in terms of timing your staycation are unavoidable; there may be busier periods in the year for your employer, which will dictate when holiday is broadly available. On the other hand, if you have children, school holidays will have a large determining factor on when you’re able to take your staycation. After all, there are now extensive restrictions on the booking of children’s holidays during term time, and as enjoyable as a staycation may be, it’s not worth the fine that trying to take one during term time is likely to incur.

Try out some alternative accommodation options for a staycation

If you want to do things a bit differently, taking a larger excursion from the norm, it may be an idea to look elsewhere for accommodation during some or all of your staycation. Not only does this help you to get a bit more into the holidays spirit, but puts you in the right mind-set to explore lesser known areas and activities in your local area; it’s very easy to get stuck in the same old routines while staying in your own home.

Staying somewhere other than home during your staycation may add a bit more in terms of incurred cost, but can further your level of relaxation in the process. You’ll no longer need to worry about housework, as all maintenance will be taken care of by the staff or owners of your accommodation. You can also take easy advantage of whatever other facilities the paid for accommodation that you’ve chosen has to offer, whether this is sports facilities or a spa. All of that and you still don’t have to travel too far or break the bank. If you’re feeling really lazy/adventurous, you don’t even need to pack too extensively; simply return home whenever you need to replenish supplies, you’re local after all!

If hotels or bed and breakfasts don’t tickle your fancy, but you’re still determined to have some or all of your staycation staying somewhere other than your home, it may be worth asking family or friends when they intend to go on holiday, and see if they would mind you staying at their place. It’s a change from the norm that’s still not too unfamiliar, but maybe just enough to get you prodded into the holiday spirit. It’s less expensive this way as well!

Staycation ideas that are ideal for families

  • Board game nights are always a winner.
  • Check out any local tourist hotspots which you’ve always promised to visit, but never had a chance.
  • Go for a hike around the local area. It’s good exercise, and shows you just what’s hidden away on your doorstep.
  • Try a diverse range of local restaurants/delicacies.
  • Have a sports day; utilise local facilities to sample a variety of different sports and activities as a family, and see if you collectively stumble upon any new favourites.
  • Family film night; rent some films and enjoy an inexpensive night in.
  • Plan a sight-seeing trip around your hometown or city to try and capture elements of it that you’ve never seen before.
  • Get the rest of the family involved with the creation of the itinerary; there’s no reason you should bear the burden alone, and this way everyone gets to do some of what they want.

 

Staycation ideas that are perfect for couples

  • Enjoy a romantic meal together in the comfort of your own home
  • Use your holiday time to create something for your other half; it’s an entertaining pastime to keep you busy and engaged during your time off, and they’ll most likely be grateful for such a gesture.
  • Sample the best nightlife that your area has to offer; this is especially useful on ‘school nights’ or during the offseason, as you’ll be able to get easier access to restaurant and clubs, or better prices therein.
  • Go for a night time walk; a very romantic gesture, and something that you may not normally get a chance to do. Not only can you gaze at the stars together, but you can get a different, quieter perspective on your home town or city.

 

UK locations that are well worth a visit

Of course, you don’t have to completely write off travel during a staycation, there are plenty of domestic destinations that are well worth a visit. After all, if you’ve been able to save money on every other aspect of the holiday, why not splash out on a trip to some local tourist attractions. You’ve been hearing about/driving past it for years, now’s the time to give it a go!

  • The Tower of London – an iconic English landmark, with some dark and gruesome history to keep the more macabre members of your party entertained. If this is a hit, also check out The London Dungeon nearby.
  • Stonehenge – another iconic landmark, this site is simultaneously mysterious and beautiful
  • The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew – An ideal day trip for those with green fingers, Kew gardens is a great place to go for a stroll.
  • Thorpe Park/Alton Towers – Arguably the two most popular theme parks in the UK, these two both provide a heart-stopping day out for thrill seekers.
  • Longleat Safari Park – Something you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find in the heart of Wiltshire, Longleat Safari park offers a day out that’s both educational and exciting.
  • Brighton Pier – a quintessential seaside holiday destination, this pier offers fun activities and breath-taking views.
  • The Lake District/Dartmoor – Both are areas rather than specific destinations, and are separated by hundreds of miles. However, both also offer similarly incredible hiking/camping destinations
  • The Natural History Museum – Another educational London tourist attraction, the Natural History Museum is great fun for all ages!
  • Warwick Castle – One of the best preserved castles in the UK, Warwick Castle is a truly spectacular place to spend a day.

 

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