Category Archives: Fun

Tours: The Holiday From Hell Or The Best Way To Check Out Somewhere New?

Organised tours have a bit of a bad rep, deemed by many to be un-adventurous and a bit like an overpriced school trip with a bunch of people you are unlikely to get on with. If this is what you think, we are here to change your mind by busting some myths associated with this type of holiday.

Myth 1: I’ll only see the touristy stuff

going-on-a-tour-image-by-sasint-cc0

Image by sasint CC0

FALSE! Tours are run by people who know the area – which includes all the cool stuff that you’d probably miss if you were left to your own devices, or at least spend half of your holiday trying to discover.

Myth 2: I’ll be stuck with the group the whole time

going-on-a-tour-image-by-hans-cc0

Image by Hans CC0

FALSE! You are not being babysat 24/7, you can go out and discover the area by yourself and experience the night life without the rest of the group if you so wish. In fact, if you want a bit of spontaneity on your trip just ask your tour guide who can tell you where is safe to go if you fancy a bit of time on your own.

Myth 3: It’s expensive

going-on-a-tour-image-by-klimkin-cc0

Images by Klimkin CC0

TRUE! BUT… Break the cost down and you’ll be surprised what great value for money it really is. Whether the daily cost works out to be £50 or £150, bear in mind that it covers the cost of flights, accommodation, transfers, local guides and even meals. You can check out average tour prices with this handy calculator from Tour Radar.

Myth 4: It’s better to go on holiday with friends

going-on-a-tour-image-by-unsplash-cc0

Image by Unsplash CC0

MAYBE, MAYBE NOT! Organizing a holiday with friends can actually be quite restrictive, as you all want to see and experience different things, and try hard to compromise. It can also lead to some pretty epic bust-ups on the way. The bonus of a tour holiday is that you are essentially experiencing independent travel with the safety and support of a group.

Whether a tour is the best option for you all depends what you want to get out of your holiday. If it’s a trip of a lifetime where you get a chance to try new things, expand your personal horizons, meet new people, forge new friendships, and have something to write home about – a tour is probably the way to go.

Don’t forget your travel insurance!

Even if you are booked with a tour operator, you may benefit from having your own independent travel insurance to ensure you are covered for things like medical assistance and repatriation. If you are unsure, just give one of our travel insurance advisors a call on 01892 833338

What’s The Cost Of Your 2017 Bucket-List?

Happy New Year! We are looking forward to a great year of adventures ahead – hopefully ticking off at least one bucket-list activity! We’ve all got one, full of daring adventures and unseen destinations – but do you have any idea how much it might actually cost to fulfill – or know what percentage of your wage you’d need to start saving?

Thankfully the geeks with all the gadgets at totallymoney.com have built a clever bucket-list calculator tool to work it out for us. Divided into adventure, sightseeing, aspirational, adrenaline and wildlife – you can personalize your own list and start saving.

Average cost of the top 10 bucket-list activities for UK traveller

  • See the Northern Lights: £572
  • Go on safari: £5,600
  • Walk the Great Wall of China: £1,139
  • Visit the Grand Canyon: £1,181
  • Go on a cruise: £1,338
  • See the Egyptian Pyramids: £1,112
  • Go whale watching: £2,000
  • Spend New Year’s Eve in New York: £1,103
  • Gamble in Las Vegas: £1,109
  • Take an American road trip: £3,365

Check out the full top 20 list, which is unsurprisingly dominated by travel-related activities, below. In fact, Buying Your Dream Home is the only one not related to travel, coming in at number 11.


View Interactive Version (via TotallyMoney.com).

The World’s Most Amazing Creatures and Where to Find Them

With the brand new Harry Potter film hitting the screens, we thought we’d share this awesome infographic about weird and wonderful creatures that really do exist. If you’d like to check them out yourself on an adventure, we have also compiled a list of truly magical activities to look out for at each destination, to be revealed in our next blog!


View Interactive Version (via Pokies).

Nevada – A Spooky Place To Celebrate Halloween!

You may associate Nevada with tales of extra terrestrial activities, but did you know that it has some pretty spooky heritage? Nevada’s vast landscape is dotted with countless ghost towns – some are indecipherable ruins infested with tumbleweeds, but others are surprisingly intact. Both are portals into a Nevada of old…

Rhyolite Porter Store by Tom Babich CC2.0

Rhyolite Porter Store by Tom Babich CC2.0

Rhyolite – America’s most famous ghost town…

Rhyolite is a secluded town set on the eastern edge of Death Valley, and has a reputation for being one of the best ghost towns in the US. It was once a thriving mining town, but now the abandoned streets and buildings send shivers down the spines of those who visit. The general store, train station and bank still stand, and so does the jail, undoubtedly the most popular attraction for spooky thrill seekers who can look into the cells and imagine the tortured lives of former prisoners.

The Haunted Mizpah Hotel

Mizpah Hotel

Mizpah Hotel. Image © Travel Nevada

Between Las Vegas and Reno is a spooky hotel that is said to have some ghostly inhabitants. Here are some of the hair-raising rumours that would make great torch lit Halloween tales!

It is said that guests can hear laughter by one of the hotel’s bath tubs, possibly the ghostly echoes of a politician who died there. Rumour has it that he met his demise before an important election, but his death was hidden by his aides who decided to keep his body in a bathtub on blocks of ice instead.

The Mizpah is also home to “The Lady in Red”- the spirit of a prostitute who was murdered on the fifth floor of the hotel, viciously stabbed outside her lavish suite. Some stories say that she was killed by a jealous ex-boyfriend, whereas others say she was caught cheating by her husband at the hotel after he had missed a train – he then proceeded to kill her in a fit of jealous rage. She has also made appearances in the original elevator the hotel features, which at its installation was the fastest elevator in the state!

The ghosts of Mizpah are said to reside across the eerie building – there have been several sightings of ghosts of children playing throughout the hallway on the third floor, and it is said that the ghosts of miners can be seen walking through the walls of the creepy basement too.

The Lady in Red Suite Courtesy of Travel Nevada © Travel Nevada

Brave guests can stay in The Lady in Red Suite for as little as £122 a night. Image © Travel Nevada

Creepy Clowns of Highway 95

clown-motel

Image © Travel Nevada

Like all good spooky places to visit in Nevada, Tonopah was once a thriving mining town, which now has an extra eerie appeal to visitors. Along the highway of this desert town lies the Clown Motel, a roadside rest place stuffed to the brim with clowns and clown collectables. The hotel itself may not be haunted – it’s just the creepy clowns that are guaranteed to give guests night terrors – but the Cemetery next door probably is. It has been closed for over a hundred years and is packed with graves of former miners many of which died from the mysterious “Tonopah Plague” in 1902.

Avoid the fright of your life on holiday! Get travel insurance!

While we don’t insure against ghouls and ghosts, we can provide cover for a range of holiday mishaps – Get in touch or visit our website to find out more about single trip, multi trip and long stay travel insurance.

3 Of The Best Airports To Be Stuck At

There is something special and somewhat surreal about the atmosphere at an airport, but some are definitely more of a pleasure than others. We reveal three of the best airports in the world – the kind you would wish you were in if you were stranded!

Changi Airport, Singapore

Changi Airport, Singapore by cegoh CC0

Changi Airport, Singapore by cegoh CC0

This place is more like a leisure complex than an airport, combined with an art gallery and possibly the Eden Project in the UK. In fact, it is a destination in itself! Here are a few of the things that make it the perfect place to while away some hours…

  • You can go on a nature trail in the butterfly garden
  • Try out 12m long airport slide
  • View international works of art, sculpture and installation
  • Have spa treatments
  • Go shopping for designer goods
  • Explore the interactive enchanted garden
  • Visit the airport zoo
  • Stay in a luxury hotel without checking out
  • Swim in the rooftop pool
  • Go to the movies

Incheon International Airport, Seoul

Incheon International Airport, Seoul by zionorbi CC2.0

Incheon International Airport, Seoul by zionorbi CC2.0

This airport has won awards for the last 11 years for it’s outstanding facilities, and for keeping passengers happy too. It’s super-spacious and offers travellers a lot of ways to pass the time…

  • Get your skates on at the ice rink
  • Go get rich in the casino
  • Improve your handicap at the golf course
  • Relax in the spa, bath or sauna
  • Catch some zzzzs in one of the sleeping rooms
  • Explore one of the many beautiful airport gardens
  • Brush up on your local knowledge at the museum

Munich Airport, Germany

Munich Airport by Alexas_Fotos CC0

Munich Airport by Alexas_Fotos CC0

This airport has been likened to a city centre thanks to its huge array of eateries, watering holes and shops. It is also one of the busiest airports in Europe, here’s what visitors get to experience…

  • Indulge in retail therapy in one of the 150+ shops
  • Eat and drink in any of the 50+ bars
  • Enjoy the atmosphere of a real German rooftop beer garden
  • Explore the in-house art gallery
  • Swim in a stainless steel pool
  • Visit the Audi showroom

Although these airports would seem like a great place to spend some holiday time, if your flight is delayed or cancelled it could cause havoc with more than just your holiday plans, it could affect your finances too. Travel insurance from WorldwideInsure.com provides the cover you need in the event that travel plans don’t go to plan – to find out more, get in touch with us on 01892 833338 or get a fast and free online quote.

 

Ten Ways To Improve Your Travel Photography

By Unsplash CC0

By Unsplash CC0

You don’t need to be wielding the latest DSLR to be able to take amazing photos, you just need to know how to spot a shot and capture what you see on whatever photography device you have. Here are our top tips…

1. Have your camera ready.

Not such an issue if you are using your smartphone, but if you like the old-school touch of a film camera, or indeed carry a more modern digital camera about, make sure it isn’t at the bottom of your bag, without a film, missing a battery or attached to the wrong lens.

2. Look for colour.

Neon lights, colourful market stalls, flowers in full bloom, the bright hues of fabrics, or simply a big blue sky. A strong splash of colour can add a dramatic feel to an otherwise ordinary snap.

3. Look for contrast.

You don’t need to be working in Black and White to make the most of light and dark. Seek shadows and silhouettes for a dramatic effect even with the most saturated film or filter. Especially good at sunset!

4. Find the story.

Whether you are at an event or festival or you are wandering the streets, seek a narrative every time you look through the viewfinder. Traditional festivals are a great place to find a story, but so are portrait opportunities with every person you meet!

5. Turn off auto.

Take time to experiment with your equipment, playing around with long exposures of city lights or the night sky, super-fast shutter speeds for action shots, and changing depth of field to draw the viewer’s eye to the subject.

6. Don’t forget to document.

Chances are you’ll forget how great that al fresco fish dinner tasted on the Aegean coast unless you capture on camera. Your travel photos aren’t just for sharing with friends and family, they are for keeping memories too.

7. Go for Golden Hour.

The light just after sunrise and just before sunset is softer and slightly redder than the rest of the day, the perfect light for beautiful photography! Make sure you don’t miss this “golden” photo opportunity, use the Golden Hour Calculator to check out times at your destination.

8. Find your frame.

Get down low, get up high, look up, look down, zoom in, crop, add space, centre your subject… there are a kerzillion ways to frame a shot, and the best way to find out what works is to experiment! Don’t be afraid to break the rules – use your viewfinder until you hit the aesthetic sweet-spot.

9. Don’t forget the details.

Macro photography is an art in itself, with super-close-ups requiring specialist equipment to get National Geographic quality shots. Most phone cameras and mid-range digital cameras have quite a good digital zoom function that can capture excellent textures and fine details – as long as you have an eye to find them!

10. Share!

Use social media to share your best shots with other travellers and to inspire other adventurers. If you are on a longstay adventure, you could create an online journal using the 365Project, a place where you can share your photos with the community and document your adventures, all for free!

 

Calculating The Cost Of A Beach Break

Calculating The Cost Of A Beach Break blog image

Image by skeeze CC0

Do bargain beers or cheap ice-creams draw you to a coastal location? Maybe you prefer to pick your beach holiday based on the price of a luxury lunch? If it’s the cost of the little things that count when you book a holiday, you’ll love Travel Bird’s Beach Price Index! Here’s what we found out…

La Plage de Maui, Tahiti is the MOST EXPENSIVE beach to visit in the index. You’ll be forking out an average of £41.50 per person for the day. Access is free, but lunch for one is over £17, a beer will set you back over a fiver and if you forget your sunscreen, you’ll be looking to pay nearly £15 to keep the ‘burn at bay.

Cua Dai Beach, Hoi An, Vietnam the CHEAPEST beach to visit out of the 250 strong list, a comparatively cheap average of £9.34 per person per day. Here a bottle of water only costs 35p, lunch is around £5, and an ice-cream for you, or the kids just 62p.

Navagio, Zakynthos, Greece is the beach with the most AFFORDABLE BEER, a very palatable £1.02. In fact, Greece takes all top 6 positions for beaches with the cheapest beers, with Paleokastritsa in Corfu, Greece placing a price tag of £1.13 for a bottle.

family beaches

From TravelBird.nl

How they did it: TravelBird took 900 of the world’s most popular seaside locations and whittled them down to 250 of the best beaches from 66 countries worldwide. To calculate the cost of a day at each, they took an average cost for sun cream, a bottle of water, a beer, ice-cream and lunch. Clever stuff! You can check out the full list here: Beach Price Index.

romantic beaches

From TravelBird.nl

Sunscreen:

Cheapest: £1.38, Cua Dai Beach, Hoi An, Vietnam

Dearest: £18.69, Anse Georgette, Praslin, Seychelles

Water:

Cheapest: £0.15, Palolem Beach, Goa, India

Dearest: £1.81, Enterprise Beach (Miami Beach) Barbados

Beer:

Cheapest: £1.02, Navagio, Zakynthos, Greece

Dearest: £5.26 Mareto Plage Publique, Moorea, French Polynesia

Ice Cream:

Cheapest: £0.36, Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia

Dearest: £2.67, Mareto Plage Publique, Moorea, French Polynesia

Lunch:

Cheapest: £4.89, El Laguito, Cartagena, Colombia

Dearest: £19.89, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA

Access:

Cheapest paid entry: £1.19, Dhanushkodi Beach, Pamban Island, India

Dearest: £331.72, Astola Beach, Balochistan, Pakistan

 

Top 10 Adrenaline Fuelled Activities For Your Bucketlist

Looking for a way to put the excitement back into your out of office adventures? You won’t go far wrong with these extreme sports and activities on your bucketlist – as long as you have a head for heights and frights! 

1: White Water Rafting 

White Water Rafting in California. Image by Kaydin Carlsen CC by 2.0

2: Via Ferrata

Via Ferrata Image courtesy of honister.com

3: Sandboarding

Sandboarding in Namibia. Image by Luke Price CC by 2.0

4: Canyoning

Canyoning in Utah. Image by Cyril Bele CC by 2.0

5: Bungee Jumping

Bungee Jumping in Switzerland. Image by Alan Light CC by 2.0

6: Ice Hiking

 

Ice Hiking “Wolverine”, Helmcken Falls Spray Cave in British Columbia, Canada. Will Gadd and Brit Tim Emmett discover a new universe of ice climbing where a 500 foot waterfall sprays the underside of a gargantuan cave with fantastical ice formations.

7: Skydiving

Skydiving. Image by Philip Leara CC0 1.0

8: Zero Gravity Flight

Zero Gravity Flight in the USA. Image by Steve Jurvetson CC by 2.0 

9: Bull Riding

Bull Riding in California. Image by Peasap CC by 2.0

10: Shark Diving

Shark Cage Diving in Hermanus. Image by Hermanus Backpackers CC by 2.0

GET SPORTS TRAVEL INSURANCE! We cover loads of activities including Shark Diving, Via Ferrata, Dude Ranching, Canyoning, Sandboarding, White Water Rafting, and Bungee Jumping in the UK and overseas. Call 01892 833338 if you’d like to know more, or get an online quote.

 

The Zen of Packing

If your New Year’s resolutions included a vow to detox, do more yoga and rid ones life of excess in general, you might be keen to know how to pack as if you need nothing when going on holiday. After all, turning up to a detox mini-break or yoga retreat with half your belongings in tow is not the way to get off to a “mindful” start!

Don't forget your socks! By Craig Sunter CC BY-ND 2.0

Don’t forget your socks! By Craig Sunter CC BY-ND 2.0

So – what is Zen, and how can it be applied to packing?

Zen is a state of mindfulness, often expressed in meditation. The point of meditation and being mindful is so that we can live in the “here and now” rather than focus on the past, which can result in depression, or on the future, which in turn can cause anxiety. That second fact may ring bells with frequent travellers – packing everything for every eventuality can be very stressful indeed, especially when you end up paying to check in an extra suitcase because you’ve packed far too much!

So, the aim here is to offer some mindful packing tips…

  1. Go backpack not suitcase, preferably something that you can take as hand luggage – that way you can’t pack more than you really need, and you’ll be one of the ones that packed lighter rather than one of the ones that wished they did.
  1. For every item you plan to take ask yourself if you will use it enough to justify taking it -Not just use it, but use it lots, maybe it is something you can pick up over there, then leave behind again, like a snorkel set.
  1. Don’t pack stuff that “might come in handy” – you should pack as if everything is going to go to plan, and if it doesn’t, have enough spare cash to buy it if you really need it. Taking a big winter coat to the south of France in summer is an example of what sort of “might come in handy thing” not to take.
  1. Don’t bother with 90% of your toiletries – “WHAT?” I hear you say, “no soap, shampoo, toothpaste or deodorant?” Yep, that’s right – believe it or not, they sell that kind of thing EVERYWHERE. If you are staying in a hotel, you probably get it for free.
  1. Your mantra is: Fold and Roll – This packing technique is a saviour for when you just can’t seem to decide between five tops and just want to take them all. Note: this does not work with shoes.
  1. Remember you can wash stuff on holiday – So just take a select few items, that can be mixed and matched, and ask your hotel or pop to the local shop for detergent when you get there. They say that three of each is enough: wear one, wash one, dry one… repeat.
  1. Wear your most bulky items for travelling – That way you don’t have to try and squeeze them into the back pack.
  1. Pack a sarong – We found out – so blogged about – the fact that there are at least 30 Ways to Use A Sarong On Holiday. Read it.

See The Sun Rise Around The World from Samoa To Erm… Samoa!

As you may know the international date line is as crooked as the contents of a badly packed suitcase, and Samoa, once known as the last place to see the sun set, is now the first place on the planet you can see the sun rise. This makes it’s neighbour American Samoa the last. So where to go in between? Well, with 40 different local times around the world, which actually take 26 hours for the New Year to arrive in, an intrepid (and very quick) traveller could do the following itinerary…

Manase Beach Sunrise by Jorge Price CC BY 2.0

Manase Beach Sunrise, Samoa by Jorge Price CC BY 2.0

Midnight strikes in Apia, Samoa! You then have 15 mins to get to…

Chatham Islands, 45 mins to get to…
Aukland, New Zealand, 1 hour to get to…
Anadyr Russia, another hour to get to…
Sydney, Australia, with half an hour to get to…
Adelaide, Australia, another half hour to get to…
Brisbane, Australia, and because Oz is sooo big, another half hour to get to Alice Springs!

You’ve so far seen in 7 New Years in 4.5 hours! As you hit the 5 hour mark you need to be in…

 

Okutama Sunrise by Kirt Cathey CC BY 2.0

Okutama Sunrise, Japan by Kirt Cathey CC BY 2.0

Tokyo, Japan, but 15 minutes later…

Back in Australia in a place called Eucla. 15 mins later again you arrive in…
Pyongyang, North Korea, with a whole hour before you need to be in…
Hong Kong, and another hour to get to…
Bangkok. Half an hour again and you’ll be in Myanmar, with another half hour to get to…
Bangladesh, fifteen mins to reach Kathmandu in Nepal, and another 15 to get to Mumbai in India.

It’s been 8 and a half hours of cheering in 16 New Years, so you are well and truly over the limit unless you’re on the shandies. And on we go…

 

Sunrise over Mumbai by Alex Dixon CC BY-SA 2.0

Sunrise over Mumbai by Alex Dixon CC BY-SA 2.0

You have half an hour to get from Mumbai to Lahore, Pakistan, and again from there to Afghanistan, and again to Azerbaijan, then Iran then Moscow.

Next up you have hourly slots for each of the following:
Athens, Greece
Paris, France
London, England
Ponta Delgada, Portugal
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Buenos Ares, Argentina

That is 17 hours of travelling so far and 24 Auld Lang Synes! Half an hour later you should arrive at Mary’s Harbour in Canada, with half an hour to get to Halifax in Canada, and another 30 mins to get to Caracas in Venezuela. We are nearly on the home run! One hour later…

 

New York City Sunrise by Anthony Quintano CC BY 2.0

New York City Sunrise by Anthony Quintano CC BY 2.0

New York USA, another hour Chicago USA, another hour to get to Denver, USA, one more hour to reach Los Angeles then another full hour to get to Alaska!

It’s been 23 hours, 25 celebrations and there are still 3 hours and 4 destinations left:

 

Sandy Beach Park, Kalanianaole Hwy, Honolulu by Robert Linsdell CC BY 2.0

Sandy Beach Park, Kalanianaole Hwy, Honolulu by Robert Linsdell CC BY 2.0

Half an hour to get to…Taiohae, French Polynesia, another half an hour to get to Honolulu, USA, and an hour to reach Pago Pago, American Samoa!

If you are determined to do the official list, not just follow the sun, you can spend your last hour of travel heading to Baker Island, where the sun actually rises at the same time as it does on Chatham Islands, the second stop on your itinerary!

 

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