Filling The Void: 10 Ways To Kill Time Before Checking In

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Ever been stuck in that post-check-out, pre-check-in void while travelling, or even just arrived earlier than scheduled and can’t book in for four hours? It sucks, especially when you just want to enjoy a holiday vibe! Here are a few ways to pass that time without feeling like you are waiting.

First, ask to stash your luggage so you are free to explore – you could even take this opportunity to find out if there is a different room already free and avoid waiting around altogether!

  1. Ask to use the hotel facilities – whether it is a lounge, lobby, or leisure area they’ll probably let you in before you check in.
  2. Head to a local spa – it will be relaxing, refreshing and will wash away the dreaded travel grime.
  3. Seek out a nearby gym – a burst of exercise will hopefully leave you feeling energised, plus you can get cleaned up with a well-deserved shower after.
  4. Go for a leisurely brunch – enjoying a bellyful of food while watching the local life pass by will soon get you in the holiday vibe.
  5. Take the opportunity to exchange currency – or do any other tedious tasks that need doing just to get them out of the way.
  6. Go to a local museum or gallery – not only will you fit in something that might not be on your itinerary, but you’ll also learn heaps about the local culture during your visit.
  7. Go for a walk – by exploring the local area you’ll find out what you’d like to see and experience more of during your stay. It is also a great way to scope out hidden gems that you’d otherwise miss with a set itinerary.
  8. Journal – whether you head to a nearby open space, a café or bar, finding somewhere to journal is a great idea for whiling away time.
  9. Revise your itinerary – this is the best time to take a look at your ideas because you can pick up local literature for lesser known attractions and excursions, and you can also ask the locals, and other holiday makers what they would (and would not) recommend.
  10. Ask for early check-in – if you know you are going to be early, ask in advance about an early check-in. In most cases hotels and hosts are able to accommodate given enough notice, but may charge for the service.

 

Arriving way before your check-in time is a pain, but not as bad as missing your flight or connection and missing out on holiday time! Make sure your travel insurance covers you for missed departures!

The Secrets to Making The Most of a Short Break Abroad

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The truth about short breaks is that they are exhausting – right? Just when you need a few days respite, with a splash of adventure you end up travelled out, rushed and wishing you’d spent a long weekend at home with a book instead. Unless you do it right of course – here’s how!

1. Follow the cardinal rule – the number of hours you travel should not be greater than the number of days of your trip.

Going for 4 days? Limit your flight time to four hours! You could even argue that the time spent in travelling to and from the airport should count too. Breaking this rule will mean that you will spend most of your trip getting from A to B rather than enjoying your destination, and you might just add a bit of jetlag into the mix if you travel really far!

2. Pick a destination or experience that is very different from “real life” at home.

The more novel your travel experience, the more you’ll feel like you have had a proper holiday and a decent break.

3. Stay at one hotel or apartment rather than travelling through your destination.

The post-check-out, pre-check-in void between 11 and 2 is best avoided, especially on a short break. Time is of the essence, so don’t spend it waiting around!

4. Upgrade yourself!

If you yearn to live a luxury lifestyle, a short break may well be the perfect opportunity to do it. A five-star hotel for 3 days is going to be more financially accessible than for a long holiday. OK, you might spend the same as you would on a 7-day budget break, but instead you have a long weekend of absolute bliss to enjoy!

5. Create the perfect “holiday experience sandwich” when you plan your itinerary.

Make the first day a day to relax, unwind and do things that aren’t mentally, emotionally, financially or physically taxing. Use the middle section of your trip to see, do, and experience everything on your to-do list so that you really feel like you’ve made the most of your trip. Finally, save the last day for unwinding – maybe head to a local spa, or have a long luxurious feast at a local restaurant.

Follow these tips and not only will you have a full and rewarding holiday experience, but you’ll also come back feeling like you have managed to relax and unwind – a rarity with a short break abroad!

A Newbies Guide To Wildlife Volunteering Holidays

Male Lion on Borana Conservancy © culsansgaptravel.co.uk

If you want to work abroad for a bit helping the local wildlife, you need to be very careful about who you book with and what you’ll be doing, otherwise there is potential to cause more harm than good, or miss what you went to experience. Here are a few pointers to steer you in the right direction when researching your options.

Look for recognised affiliations and partnerships with reputable responsible travel companies. Companies such as Long Run and Responsible Travel really put operators through their paces to showcase honest, supportive behaviours. Booking with affiliated companies means your volunteer experience should be a help to the wildlife not a hindrance.

Pick your time of travel carefully. For example, if you want to get up close with African wildlife, you don’t want to book a volunteer trip in the green season – not only will your job be harder because of the thick turf, but you’ll have less chance of seeing the wildlife. Migration patterns should also be considered before booking!

Go for the right reasons. No-one knows what mother nature has in store, or what wild animals might do next, so don’t sign up for a wildlife or conservation programme just to see wild animals. Make sure you are going because of the good you will be doing. Any close encounters you experience are a bonus!

Observing animal tracks with James, Head Guide, from Il Ngwesi © culsansgaptravel.co.uk

Get Vaccinated. It is absolutely vital to get the correct vaccinations for your location. Whether you need the likes of rabies shots or malaria pills depends very much on where you are going – so get the advice of your GP or tour operator.

Get Insured. Animals can be very dangerous and unpredictable, and you are immediately putting yourself in a high-risk environment when signing up to volunteering with wildlife – that is why adequate travel insurance is essential!

Beware of close encounter opportunities. Volunteering in a contained environment with wild animals, or volunteering with companies offering physical human contact should raise alarm bells. As an untrained volunteer you only pose a risk in such a situation.

Il Ngwesi anti-poaching ranger © culsansgaptravel.co.uk

Ask about safety. At the very least find out what safety procedures are in place, and what the emergency evacuation procedures are. You should also be able to find out what to do in the event of a wide range of risk situations. If the information isn’t available, doubt the integrity of the operator.

Finally – Be sure to ask your operator the following questions:

  • How much is the total cost of the volunteer programme?
  • What does this cost include?
  • What costs must I cover myself?
  • Where do the profits go?
  • How involved will I be able to get?
  • What will my daily role be?
  • How is my presence there actually helping?
  • How many other volunteers are on the same project?
  • Who is the project managed by and what is their past experience and qualifications?

Students observing a white rhino on Lewa Wildlife Conservancy © culsansgaptravel.co.uk

Don’t forget your travel insurance! Talk to one of our sales team on 01892 833338 or get a quick travel insurance quote online!

PKs List Review – Travel App of the Month August 2018

Welcome to an app that gives you entry to the most luxurious hotel experiences around the world! Not only does this app open doors to magnificent places, it also guarantees a VIP experience as you will be part of one of the most exclusive travel clubs in town.

What is PKs List?

It is an exclusive members travel club, and the result of PKs – aka Phillipe – time spent compiling an extensive ‘little black book’ of the world’s leading hoteliers, granting him access to the world’s finest hotels. The connection means that each hotel in PKs List recognises a PKs List booking, guaranteeing the guests will receive additional perks on arrival, such as upgrades, inclusive breakfasts, spa credits, gift vouchers, late check out and discounted services.

Members of PKs List – of which there are three tiers, the Elite Membership (by invitation only), the Travel Club, and the new App – can trust that the suggestions being offered have undergone a vigorous vetting process and that Philippe has personally visited and arranged for the very best perks for his members.

What does the PKs List app do?

The app was designed for time-poor members wanting inspiration and insight into the world’s finest hotels, offering hotel contact details, a ‘quick book’ option and perks such as upgrades, spa credits, gift vouchers and late check out at select hotels.

  • Uses Subjective Travel Intelligence™- a dynamic database of over 1,000 individually selected, reviewed and visited hotels around the globe.
  • Categorises hotels into types for easy selection.
  • PKs List Travel Club Membership grants users perks such as upgrades, breakfast and VIP amenities (participating hotels only).
  • Guaranteed VIP status and privileges at virtually every hotel brand across the world.
  • Bespoke trip itineraries, access to sought-after events and experiences.

Who is the PKs List app for?

PKs list is for discerning travellers that expect the best, but don’t have the time to vet every booking option themselves. The trust in Philippe’s choices and connections means that VIP status and privilege is guaranteed and you will not be disappointed by your booking! To become a member of this exclusive travel club via the app costs $99 a year, however there is a 7 day free trial to give people an idea of what the app can give access to!

Remember that the app is the lowest tier of membership – to really get the best perks, you will have to pay $500 a year membership and be personally referred by someone who is already a member of PKs List.

What do the PKs List app reviews say?

The app is super new and so far only available in iTunes, so no app reviews available. There aren’t any reviews or ratings on the website either, but that is probably because the target audience is a discerning crowd and probably give feedback to Philippe himself about their undoubtedly magnificent experience.

Download PKs List on iTunes.

Visit the website. 

 

Lagom – The Swedish Goldilocks Principle for Globetrotters

Lagom – a Swedish word that has no direct translation. It more or less means not too much, not too little, just the right amount. It can be applied to every aspect of life – whether that be the amount of cream you have in your coffee, the way you dress, how you decorate your home, or how you travel! Here are some top travel tips that we think hit the lagom vibe.

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Take an extended break

In Sweden it is common for people to take three to four weeks off in the summer to enjoy the weather. While this isn’t an option for everyone, the key is to make sure that you take more days than you think you need to enjoy your holiday. So, if it is a weekend city break you are going on, add an extra day either side to prepare, and to come home and relax after travelling. Going on a longer holiday? Same principle – take more days than you think you need, you’ll be glad of it when your itinerary is approaching capacity.

Plan a sensible itinerary

Cramming in sightseeing and activities to a pre-booked holiday is not adhering to lagom. You don’t want to do so little you feel like you are wasting time, but you also don’t want to be rushed off your feet trying to fit everything in – you want balance. Before you book your holiday decide what it is you want to do, how much time you ideally need to enjoy each activity to its fullest, and also how long it will take to get from A to B to C… Then add some time for doing NOTHING – only with space in your schedule can you embrace something spontaneous, or take some time to rest between adventures! Once you know that, create your itinerary and book your holiday. If it feels like there is too much for the holiday time you can take, remember you can always come back another time!

Get close to nature

Lagom is about keeping things simple, something a spell in the great outdoors can provide in abundance, but remember we aren’t aiming for extremes! Enjoy outdoor activities that are within your skill-range, environments that aren’t going to cause discomfort, and above all, remember to dress for the weather. There is a saying “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”

Eat fresh, eat local

You can also use the concept of lagom to enjoy the local cuisine – in moderation of course. So, bingeing on steak and red wine in Argentina is not lagom, but indulging in a fine cut with a reserve occasionally during your stay is. Choose items off the menu that do not have a negative impact on the wellbeing of local wildlife or ecosystems – something to be mindful of in places where the popularity of seafood is leading to an overfishing problem. Finally, only eat what you need, no need to go large, order big, or have three courses when two will do.

Choose ethical travel

Low impact and ethical travel is on the rise. This encompasses a wide range of tourist activities that take the excessive side of tourism into account, things like damage to flora and fauna, overcrowding, and negative impacts on the economy and the life of locals. Wherever you travel make sure that you are adding to the local economy during your stay, that you leave as little trace as possible while you are there, and that you are mindful of the impact of your presence in everything you do.

Fun Things To Do In Gothenburg On A Short City Break

Summer in Sweden is the perfect time for a short city break and with a wonderfully short flight from the UK, Gothenburg is the ideal destination!

Image by lenalindell20 CC0

Take A Paddan Boat Tour of the City

The low, wide Paddan tour boats are an idyllic way to explore the city, and learn about the sights from a tour guide. The canal boat goes around most of the 17thCentury canals in the city, passing sightseeing hotspots, harbours, and passing under many beautiful bridges!

Kayak The Gothenburg Archipelago

While there are seal safaris, fishing, and island hopping tours available for visitors to explore this beautiful archipelago just an hour from Gothenburg, kayaking is arguably the best way to explore the area. There are guided tours available for all abilities, plus you can choose to add swimming or fishing to your paddling adventure.

Go To The Fish Church

Feskekôrka is a fish market with the architectural qualities of a church, hence the name! As well as drawing visitors who want to see this sublime building – an architectural experiment built in 1874, Feskekôrka is also the place to go for top quality fish and seafood that is as fresh as it gets.

Image by mammela CC0

Explore The Universeum

This is Scandinavia’s largest science centre, a whopping 9,000 square metres of flora, fauna, and fun. Over seven levels there is room for a tropical rainforest, home to 25 metre tall kapok trees with a suspension bridge, a 1.4 million litre aquarium with sharks and rays, plus monkeys, sloths, and caimans to name just a few. It even has room for visitors to step into a space station.

Check Out The Parks And Gardens

Gothenburg is a compact city, which makes it easy to pass from one splendid public garden to another. The Botanical Garden is one of the largest in Europe, and close by is Slottsskogen, the main park in Gothenburg. Just outside of the city you’ll find historic estates with impressive garden spaces, open for the public to enjoy. Don’t forget that in Sweden there is a right to roam, so visitors can go and explore any open space, as long as they pay attention to the “do not disturb or destroy” policy that comes with it.

Visit Gothenburg Museum of Art

It just won the title Museum of the Year in Sweden thanks to its diverse art collection. So as well as being able to view Rubens, Munch, Picasso et al, visitors can expect a variety of workshops, temporary exhibitions and lectures over the three floors of this stunning museum.

Popular Destinations Capping Tourist Numbers

Cheap travel is more accessible than ever, couple that with Airbnb maximising the number of places to stay and it is a recipe for disaster as far as locals are concerned. While tourism can help boost the economy it appears that there is a tipping point when the locals themselves can no longer afford to stay, or enjoy the life they once led. Here are a few popular destinations that are capping their tourist numbers, and why they have chosen to.

Barcelona

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Last year 32 million people visited Barcelona, vastly outnumbering – and irritating – the 1.5 million permanent residents. It isn’t just the drunk and disorderly antics that are causing concern, it is also the rise in apartment bookings, leading to rent hikes which many Barcelonans cannot afford. The fury of the locals has resulted in anti-tourist graffiti, and residents storming the beach area and holding protests along Las Ramblas.

To combat the rise in visitors, and to keep the residents happy, the authorities have introduced a special plan for tourist accommodation. This will limit the number of new hotels spaces (currently at 75,000 beds) that can be introduced, and limit the number of tourist apartments. The latter may be more difficult however as authorities estimate that half of the 100,000 beds available to rent in apartments are actually illegal ones.

Dubrovnik

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This beautiful city’s World Heritage Site status is at risk due to extreme overcrowding by tourists. UNESCO requested numbers within the medieval city’s walls to be capped at 8,000 visitors a day after peak times saw in excess of 10,000 people cramming the ramparts. As with Barcelona, such crowding has led to disgruntled locals who have chosen to protest.

Plans put in place include limiting the number of cruise ships that can arrive at the port at any one time, and lowering the limit of visitors to the medieval city even further than UNESCO recommendations to just 4,000 per day. While the Mayor acknowledges that this could see a reduction in revenue to the tune of a million Euros over two years, it should improve the happiness of Dubrovnik’s residents, and also enable the city to retain its World Heritage status.

Mont Blanc

Image by Simon CC0

Overcrowding is becoming such a danger that France recently issued a cap on the number of visitors to the Royal Route of Mont Blanc. While this cap is only temporary, it is something that may come in to play regularly in the future.

The reason for the restriction on numbers is safety and pollution. There are more people than ever attempting the summit, many of whom do not have enough experience, which has led to deaths. There is also the issue of pollution from overcrowding – especially as the shelter at the summit, the Gouter, is frequently exceeding its 120-person capacity. The recent cap was in place for 8 days, and only permitted experienced climbers who already had permits to access the summit.

Santorini

Image by SofiaPapageorge CC0

Two million visitors a year isn’t helping preserve the charm of this idyllic destination, especially when close to half the number of visitors are cruise liner day-trippers adding very little to the local economy.

To combat the impact the Mayor has imposed a limit of just 8,000 tourists per day, but some fear that the overcrowding is also due to a rise in the number of residents. As more tourists arrive on this Greek Island, more people come here to live and work – but the infrastructure isn’t there to support the fastest-rising population in Greece, creating much discontent.

Maya Bay

Image by suyashdixit CC0

For four months this year the idyllic Maya Bay in Thailand is closed to ALL tourists. This has been enforced to allow the surrounding reefs to recover from the impact of 5,000 people a day seeking paradise.

The huge numbers of visitors are down to the success of The Beach, a film about an untouched backpacker paradise. Back then, this bay really was an unspoilt gem, but today it is a far cry from the image in the film. Temporary beach and bay closures has worked well in other Thailand beauty spots, but ideally a permanent closure is what is needed in extreme cases – which has an obvious impact on the much-needed tourist revenue for locals. One compromise could be to have a daily cap on visitors once Maya Bay opens again in September, or at least closing the bay to sightseeing boats, one of the biggest polluters in this part of the world.

Borrow A Boat Review – Travel App of the Month July 2018

Fancy chartering a boat at the drop of a hat on your next holiday? Well, a new app, from the only peer-to-peer charter company in the UK is offering flexible bookings on over 17,000 boats in over 60 countries across the world.

What is Borrow A Boat?

It is an online booking portal where people who own (often underused) boats hire them out to people looking for adventure experiences. The aim of the founder was to open up boating adventures to more people, and at the same time offer those who own a boat a way of getting some of the costs of ownership back.

Boats can come with skippers on board if required, which means that you also don’t need to have sailing experience to enjoy a random adventure!

What does the Borrow A Boat app do?

It makes it super simple to charter a boat wherever you are. The app puts the following at your fingertips:

  • Find boats near you
  • Search and filter based on your requirements
  • Contact boat owners
  • Book online
  • Review past trips
  • Create wishlists of your favourite boats
  • Share boats with friends

There is a choice of Bareboat and skippered charterson sailing boats, gulets, motor boats, catamarans, canal boats, river boats, narrow boats, picnic boats, super yachts, sailing yachts, speed boats, and trimarans.

What makes the Borrow A Boat app so good for travelling?

It puts a luxury lifestyle experience in your hands at your destination. It can also be the reason for choosing to visit a special part of the world. Ultimately, it is a cost-effective way to live the high life whether you have experience sailing or not.

“This app will revolutionize the charter market by opening up access to boats, which we see parked in marinas the world over, almost always under-used. People will be able to take this app on holiday with them or use from the comfort of their own home, and be able to access boats from the palm of their hand in an instant, without the burden of ownership!” CEO Matt Ovenden

What do the Borrow A Boat app reviews say?

This app is brand spanking new, so no reviews yet. However, the company has been in action since 2016 and has an excellent Trustpilot score with the following comments as standard:

  • “Amazing Company & Service”
  • “Amazing, easy & speedy service – especially for a first time boater!!!”
  • “Brilliantly organised & would highly recommend.”
  • “Cheaper than hiring directly with the charter owner.”

Only available on iTunes

Top Tips For First Time Travelling Abroad With Toddlers

©43kcreative.com

Tantrums, a short attention span, and the tendency to spontaneously require something completely unexpected (or unattainable) can scupper the best-laid travel plans. Here are some top tips from parents who travel to ensure your toddler is on best form on holiday.

Tell them what is going to happen –From an early start and travelling in their PJs, to what it feels like to board a plane, boat or train, tell your toddler what to expect on the journey. Who they may encounter, the crazy spaces they might experience, and what the travel staff expects of them should all be revealed.

Let them pack their bag (with some assistance) – Maybe you don’t think FooFooFluffBunny is an essential travel item, but your child might, and it could be the one thing that they demand if they get a little travel stress. Let them pick their own toys to take, and compromise with some parental recommendations. Taking them shopping for their own travel essentials will make sure it’s not a fight to get a flannel and toothbrush in, but it will also get them excited about the adventure ahead.

Pack the right snacks –Hunger is the enemy, but don’t let sweet treats be the way to distract. You’ll never get a toddler to sit still after a box of raisins let alone a pack of sweets. Keep the snacks simple, nutritious and on-hand.

©43kcreative.com

Pack the right entertainment –A tablet is a compact and versatile answer to keeping a child occupied on a long journey. While colouring pens and paper and travel games might seem like the superior choice parentally, rummaging for dropped bits under seats is no fun. Just remember to load plenty of games, drawing apps and books on to the tablet before you set off.

Break everything up into bite-size chunks– The journey AND the holiday! Some parents recommend 15-minute activity slots on a long journey, and while on holiday break the days up so that there is something for everyone. A sightseeing tour for the grown ups in the morning for example, followed by an afternoon of adventure play or a pool. Throw in the promise of a holiday ice cream for being patient, and you should have a happy family all round.

Play dress-up for sightseeing– Longer excursions for less toddler-exciting attractions will require a little creativity. Take along their favourite dress-up set, or get something that ties in with the theme of where you plan to visit. Dressing up will make the whole experience more immersive for them, and hopefully keep them occupied so you can enjoy it too.

Devise a treasure hunt –And make it last for the whole holiday! A simple list of things to spot will be a great distraction when toddlers are getting a little testing. Keep it simple with flowers, cats, dogs, cars, trams, tuk-tuks – whatever is common in your destination – then throw in a few curve balls like a heart shaped cloud, banana shaped hat… you get the idea. Make sure there is a reward for hitting certain targets – more holiday ice cream for example, and encourage a bit of teamwork if travelling with more than one child.

A Gluten-Free Holiday Guide – Advice For Coeliacs

Image by Mariamichelle CC0

If you have to watch what you eat for health reasons, going on holiday can throw up a whole host of food-related challenges. This month we are focussed on sharing helpful information for those who can’t eat gluten.

Get location specific advice

Coeliac.org.uk has some excellent country-specific information sheets to help gluten-free holidaymakers ensure their food is safe to eat. This includes information about the cuisine, local coeliac groups and useful phrases you can show to those in charge of your food. For example, when visiting Vietnam:

I suffer from an illness called coeliac disease and have to follow a strict gluten-free diet, or I may become very unwell.
Tôi bị một căn bệnh gọi là bệnh celiac và phải
tuân theo một chế độ ăn không có gluten chặt chẽ, nếu không tôi có thể trở nên rất khó chịu trong người.

Make your dietary needs clear when booking EVERYTHING

Whether it is your flight, a hotel, or a restaurant, state your needs clearly when booking. This not only gives your host more time to ensure your needs can be met, but will also mean you are more likely to get a decent gluten-free meal.

Double check your dietary needs have been understood when you arrive

Remind the person that you booked with that you are the gluten-free individual, or ask to speak to the chef to make sure that your needs have been taken seriously and that you will be served food that won’t make you ill.

Pack essential foods

Things don’t always go to plan, so pack bare essentials you know you can eat. Take your own gluten-free breads and pastas for example, not just snacks. There aren’t many establishments that will deny someone breaking out their own gluten-free bread roll if they aren’t able to cater for their needs.

But do check that you can take them into the country!

Some countries have strict policies on what foods can be brought in. Check with your airline, and also ask your GP to write a cover letter explaining the importance of these foods for your health.

Go to Italy – it is a top gluten-free destination!

Ok, so this is the home of pasta and pizza dishes, so how can it be so good for those who need to avoid gluten? Well, there was a national coeliac screening programme that raised awareness of coeliac disease, and in turn educated a whole country on the importance of gluten-free menus and preparation areas. The Italian Coeliac Society, understanding that gluten based foods are a staple in every Italian household then set about publishing a list of eateries and B&Bs in the country that are certified gluten-free.

Talk to your travel insurance provider

As a coeliac, you must make sure that you tell your travel insurance provider about your condition. As a general rule a customer with a medical condition (or several) can declare their recent medical history and current situation and if the condition is stable and well controlled, not awaiting investigation or treatment, for example surgery, then the condition can be covered.

At Worldwideinsure.com for a condition such as Coeliac, we are able to cover customers with a stable condition, including those with Stomas, provided they haven’t had an unplanned hospital admission in the last 6 months.

For more information please see Travel Insurance Medical Conditions.

Choose self-catering

If you can’t trust what other people might serve you, then you can ease the stress and opt to cook up your own gluten-free cuisine on a self-catering basis. While you’ll have to be patient and shop carefully for ingredients, it is a great way to learn a few new words. Life is made a bit easier if you are holidaying in the EU, as the packaging has to have the same labelling information that we are used to in the UK, where allergens are written in bold.

Opt for a resort

Resorts are more likely to cater for a variety of dietary needs, and are more likely to be familiar with the seriousness of cross-contamination. Another bonus is that they are also more likely to have nutrition sheets where every dish has its ingredients explained in minute detail.

 

*** Please Note ***

Policies, terms and conditions may change – all information published in this blog pertaining to travel insurance from worldwideinsure.com is only deemed valid at the time of publication.