Dream Destinations Where You Can (probably) Escape Christmas

If you are looking for an alternative Christmas getaway without a hint of festive jumpers, tinsel and chart-topping Christmas hits, you could try these tantalising destinations.

Laos

Image by MamMam CC0

This is one of the few destinations where the commercial chaos that surrounds Christmas just doesn’t feature, unless you are in one of the big cities. This is partly because Laos doesn’t have a large Christian community, but also because it is still a relatively “untouristy” place and hasn’t taken on western traditions to please throngs of holiday-makers. As such, the big day passes by just like any other day here.

Morocco

Image by makunin CC0

Unless you check into a hotel that is catering for holiday-makers who want to celebrate Christmas in the sun, Morocco is a great place to avoid the festivities due to it being a Muslim country.  While the tinsel and turkey won’t feature, do be mindful that shopping might, as tourists flock to the souks in search of something different to take home and gift at Christmas.

Maldives

Image by 12019 CC0

This is one destination where you can guarantee yourself a white Christmas – in the form of sand instead of snow. And while there may be a splattering of festive decoration in some resorts, it is nothing more than an acknowledgement of the time of year and is not a precursor to a day of festivities. There is the added benefit that the more secluded your tropical oasis the easier it is to forget it is Christmas altogether.

Russia

Image by shelma25

This is one for those who want to get away from Christmas without getting away from winter, just make sure you don’t stay long past the 25th! The catch here is that Russia does in fact celebrate Christmas, but on the 07thof January – which means there is a chance that festive lights and the like will be on display, but the day itself will just about pass by with out the usual festive fuss.

Sun Seeker App Review – Travel App of The Month November 2018

Take travel photos that will make your friends green with envy with the help of a sun-tracking app, the easy way to make sure you don’t miss those precious golden hours!

What is the Sun Seeker App?

It is sun tracking app – a slice of magic that shows the solar path in all its 3D augmented reality glory. It also has a flat-compass view and comes with a whole heap of data to show what the sun is up to at any point in the world.

What does the Sun Seeker App do?

It provides sunlight data that enables professionals of all types to see when the sun is in an optimal position for their needs. This data is also useful for everyday decision making that involves wanting or needing to know where the sun is, or isn’t, e.g:

  • Planoptimal light conditions, sunrise/sunset directions, golden and blue hour times.
  • Find where to camp or sit, in or out of the sun.
  • Find optimal planting locations and seasonal sunlight hours.
  • Visualise the spatial variability of the solar angle throughout the year in a building.

Main Features

  • Uses GPS, magnetometer and gyroscope to find solar position and path.
  • Flat compass view showing current solar position, diurnal solar angle and elevation, shadow length ratio, atmospheric path thickness.
  • 3D augmented reality camera overlay view showing the sun’s current position, its path with hour points marked.
  • Map view showing solar direction arrows and elevations for each hour of the day.
  • Choose any date and location and view solar path for that day.
  • Notifications for sun-related events, such as golden or blue hours.

Why is the Sun Seeker App good as a travel app?

This app is an invaluable tool for the travel photographer, and is also jolly useful if you are on an adventure holiday and want to know when and where you are at risk of strong sun or need to know the best place to camp in terms of shade.

What do the Sun Seeker App reviews say?

Photographers say it helps with framing and time-lapse, and iOS users love the app’s accuracy. The Android users however don’t rate it as highly, highlighting accuracy problems. The developers have responded saying that the compass in the Android device could be to blame, and suggests calibrating before use.

Get it on iTunes

Get it on GooglePlay

 

 

 

Top Tips For Adventure Holiday Landscape Photography

Don’t come back from your next trip with a bunch of smartphone pics and the excuse “you had to be there really”. Instead, bag some envy-inducing shots worthy of National Geographic with these simple tips.

Alaska Image by 12019 CC0

 Take a decent camera.

Go old school Single Lens Reflex, or take it up a notch with a DSLR. Whatever you do, don’t use a smartphone, use a camera where you can adjust light settings and aperture to get the aesthetic you are looking for.

Use a tripod.

The best way to get the perfect frame for your shot, and the only way to wait for the right moment without ruining the image with camera shake. A tripod is also essential for taking long exposures.

Pack a cable release.

The hands off approach will ensure you don’t jog the camera when releasing the shutter, or cause any movement during long exposure photography.

Take a variety of lenses

Take a wide-angle, super-wide angle and a telephoto lens at the very least. This image of Seljalandsfoss, one of the most-photographed waterfalls in south Iceland, was taken with a 10mm fish-eye lens by Geraldine Westrupp of Wild Photography Holidays.

© GERALDINE WESTRUPP

Photographer tip: Try an unusual perspective

“Taking this picture from the path to the back of Seljalandsfoss gives an unusual perspective, and the use of a 10mm fish-eye lens gives remarkable results. The setting sun lights up the wall behind this stunning cascade only a few times in the year. October, when this shot was taken, is a good time to try.” 

Photographer tip: Get up early

“Getting up early ensures that you have time to get to your chosen location and set up your equipment before the action starts. On Iceland’s Diamond Beach (pictured below) the sun rises over the sea and it lights up the water and sparkling ice that graces the black sand.  The actual appearance of the sun in this case is not important; the effect that it has on the ice is where the drama is. It’s a good idea to pinpoint the perfect time to shoot by using a smartphone app such as Sun Seeker to determine sunrise and sunset times for your exact location.” 

© GERALDINE WESTRUPP

Pack your filters.

A UV filter will really make the image crisp and the colours pop, and a polarising filter will give extra colour saturation as well as reducing glare off highly reflective surfaces. An ND filter is awesome for daytime long exposures, resulting in an ephemeral aesthetic when photographing waves or fast moving clouds in the sky.

© Fortythree Photography

 

© Fortythree Photography

 

The Best Things To Do For Free In New York City

As one of the most expensive cities in the United States, it makes sense that travellers would enjoy things to do for free during their stay. After all, the more money you save, the more money you have to spend on something else!

Image by Pexels CC0

  1. Guided Tours of Central Park – Free tours by Central Park Conservancy.
  2. Catch the Staten Island Ferry – Unlike the East River Ferry, this is absolutely free!
  3. Visit the Federal Bank Gold Vault – Free tours available on weekday afternoons.
  4. Brooklyn Brewery Beer Tour – Free tours every half hour during weekends.
  5. Visit an Art Gallery – Head to Chelsea for a huge choice of places to visit.
  6. Get Fit at Bryant Park – Loads of free activities to join in during the summer.
  7. Relax in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden – Free entry on Tuesdays only.
  8. MoMA – The admission fee is waived on a Friday night, so you get on for FREE!
  9. Grand Central Whispering Gallery – Part of a 90 min free walking tour every Friday.
  10. Take The High Line – An elevated park 30 ft in the air, often host to art and events.
  11. Kayak the Hudson – Free kayak hire on a first come, first served basis in Queens.
  12. Socrates Sculpture Park – Films and art on Wednesdays during the summer.
  13. American Museum of Natural History – Free for the last hour of opening.
  14. Brooklyn Museum – Free on the first Saturday of the Month.

 

Wilderness City Breaks in the USA

This oxymoronic idea of a city break is surprisingly achievable. Here are some of the city breaks to book if you want a slice of adventure within easy reach of 5-star comfort and a cold beer at the end of the day.

San Diego where surfing and city life goes hand in hand. Image by skeeze CC0

Salt Lake City

Wilderness fun: skiing. City fun: Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

Ski season runs from November through to April, and while there are a number of world-class resorts less than an hour’s drive away, there is fun to be had on a number of lesser-known trails and runs within just 3 miles of the city itself. The top to-do in Salt Lake City is a visit to Temple Square, the headquarters of the Mormon community and home to a majestic 19thcentury Temple. Time your visit right and you’ll get to hear the Tabernacle Choir perform in the neo-gothic assembly hall. Salt Lake City in a nutshell!

Seattle

Wilderness fun: scuba diving. City fun: live music.

Seattle is known for a pretty decent night-diving scene. The harbour lights in the distance make for a beautiful backdrop, and the diving lights are known to attract harbour seals who want to come to play. Keeping with the evening theme, Seattle is well known for being the birthplace of grunge music, and today it still boasts an impressive music scene. There are plenty of live music venues around the city, which makes having a post-dive beer and boogie easy.

Washington D.C

Wilderness fun: kayaking. City fun: craft brewery tours.

The Potomac River, which starts in the heart of Washington DC, is a veritable theme park for kayakers. It has flatwater, class 2 and 3 white water rafting, slalom sections and falls reserved for only the most adept of paddlers. Back on dry land, you can experience the joys of a different type of liquid altogether – beer! The city has a serious up and coming craft brewing scene, all of which are open to enjoy, or you can get in on one of the local brewery tours and make sure you don’t miss a drop.

San Diego

Wilderness fun: surfing. City fun: Gaslamp Quarter.

From August to November, San Diego’s 70 miles of glorious sandy beaches have the best surfing action. Jolla Shores is one of the most popular, a more gentle and safe place to enjoy the autumnal swells.  Head to Black Beach if you want something a bit more challenging! After a day of sun, sand and sea, head to the Gaslamp Quarter, the historic heart of San Diego. The old town has a young vibrant scene, plenty of laid-back bars, clubs and eateries all wrapped up in rich Victorian architecture.

Phoenix

Wilderness fun: mountain biking. City fun: dark bars.

Arizona is right on the edge of the biggest patch of wilderness in the Southwest, and within that is seemingly endless miles of trails to explore. If you’d like to be back from the middle of nowhere before bedtime, and of course experience the most fun possible on these trails, then go by mountain bike! Residents of Phoenix like to escape the long days of intense sunshine by frequenting places known as Dark Bars. These watering holes have lighting so low that you’ll struggle to see your drink, and the air con so high you may wish you’d packed a jumper. This is exactly what’s needed after a day in the desert!

DON’T FORGET YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE! With worldwideinsure.com you can get a whole heap of activities and sports covered as standard. Get a quick online quote or speak to one of our advisors.

Circa App Review – Travel App of the Month October 2018

It is hard enough to know when you are awake when hopping from one country to the next in a blur of time zone changes. So how are you meant to know when friends, family, and business contacts are around? We have found the answer!

What is the Circa App?

It is a thing of beauty. A well designed time zone tracking app that allows you to see what time it is where you are, as well as the time it is where you are heading, and anywhere else you like too. But that’s not all…

What Does the Circa App do?

It has some clever features such as allowing you to add “office time” for example, so you know when a contact in another country will be available. The app also lets you do this for multiple time zones and locations which makes it possible to create meeting invitations that work for everyone.

  • Visually compare time across multiple locations
  • Quickly see working hour overlaps
  • Connect your calendars to check your schedule
  • Personal, organise in your own way
  • Create one-touch meeting invitations

It is also Apple Watch ready, which looks pretty neat.

Who is the Circa App for?

It has been built with busy business people in mind. “Stop wondering when your colleagues are available and start using circa.” However, we think it is a pretty neat app for anyone who has friends and family around the world, which includes long-term travellers trying to keep in contact with friends they have made on their way as well as family back home.

What do the Circa App reviews say?

It looks nice. It is simple. It does what it says on the tin, and very well it does it too.

Get Circa on iTunes.

What Really Happens When You Miss A Flight?

Image by JESHOOTScom CC0

You’ll feel stressed, confused, embarrassed and have “why did it happen to me?” doing loop da loops in your head until you finally get to your destination. For slightly more helpful information, read on…

1. It depends on the reason you missed your flight

Missing your flight because you got the date wrong or because your passport is out of date when you show up – this is your error, totally avoidable and you should have noticed. In this instance you will have to reschedule your flight and bear whatever costs that involves!

If you spent too long browsing duty free or fell asleep and missed the call for your gate, you have the added inconvenience that your luggage may well be on its way but you are not! In this awful situation find a relevant member of staff and see if your bags got booted off the plane, then work out how you get on the next flight. In many cases you won’t be charged, or you may have to pay a small fee to change your ticket, whereas some will charge you the difference in flight fee.

If you missed your flight in a wave of abject panic from being stuck in traffic, dealing with a broken down car, or train services were unexpectedly not running then you may be able to get on the next available flight at no extra cost. This is down to an unofficial “flat tire” rule. As it’s unofficial it is never definitely a choice, and it varies between airlines. General rules of it are:

  • The reason for missing your flight must be out of your control e.g. like having a flat tire.
  • You must arrive at the airport within 2 hours of your original flight departure.
  • You must have notified your airline of your unfortunate predicament so your probably vacant seat could be offered to some other poor soul that missed their own flight if you don’t turn up in time.

2. It could depend on your travel insurance

 If you have travel insurance, which really you should, you may be able to recover some unexpected costs as a result of missing your flight. Please note that this is different from costs incurred due to a flight being delayed or cancelled! Your policy will outline if you are covered in the event of a missed flight, and also what qualifying circumstances are required to be eligible to claim. You may be able to book any ongoing flight to get you to your destination at the soonest opportunity rather than wait for a standby slot – but as always, please read the terms of your own policy for clarification!

3. The terms of your ticket may play a role

Not all tickets are equal, and if you are on a budget airline, or have a super-economy ticket, or booked a special deal, you may find that if you miss your flight then that’s just tough luck and you will need to pay out for another.

4. It depends on what other flights are available

Usually your airline will put you on standby for the next available flight, but that might not be until the next day. You can always opt to book an entirely new flight if you are happy to accept losing your original fare to get to your destination sooner.

5. It definitely depends on how you handle it

As with anything, politeness will get you a long way, as will being pro active! If you think you are going to miss your flight, let the airline know – you will have more chance of getting on the next flight and may well be able to without much extra cost. If you are at the airport and have missed a connection or it took longer than expected to get through security, remain calm, go to your nearest desk or representative and ask how they can help in this situation. If you have already checked out your options during the mayhem sharing them with the helpdesk may well make the whole process quicker and get you on a flight sooner.

 

Three of The Best Halloween Holiday Destinations for 2018

Looking to put some spook into your October holiday? Check out these freakish and frankly quite terrifying Halloween themed breaks happening this year!

New York City, USA

© Joe Buglewicz courtesy of nygco.com

Deja Voodoo at the Annual Village Halloween Parade

In October, New York goes all out to celebrate Halloween with as many as 50,000 people joining in the annual Village Halloween Parade on 31stOctober. This year the parade is celebrating 45 years of spooktastic fun! It gets rolling at 7pm and heads north up Sixth Avenue to 16th Street featuring a wealth of wacky costumes and the sounds of numerous live bands. If you want to join in the parade, a creative costume is a must!

Gothenburg, Sweden

© Liseberg Amusement Park

Cirkus Bisarr at Liseberg Amusement Park

A trip to this Swedish theme park in October holds an extra eerie treat as around 200 actors scare visitors in specially constructed horror houses and alfresco horror areas! Visitors are warned to expect the deeply unsettling, involving creepy clowns, zombies, monsters and blood-splattered surgery rooms and prisons. What we love about this event is that the experiences have been divided up into Horror Experiences and Terror areas of which there are 4 horror houses and 1 horror attraction in the former, and 2 horror areas and several mysterious, wonderfully cosy areas for the younger ones in the latter. Open days: 12-14, 19-21 and 26-31 Oct, and 1-4 Nov.

Tarragona, Spain

© PortAventura

Halloween at Port Aventura World

This resort is host to one of the biggest and best Halloween parties in the world staged over a whopping eight weeks! Promising everything from absolute terror to spooky family fun visitors can experience terrorific shows, creatures from the beyond, passages of terror, clusters of monsters roaming freely around the resort, blood-thirsty menus, and a fantastic parade that will take over the streets as night falls.All the parks, hotels and restaurants will be decorated with giant pumpkins, bats, ghosts and other terrifying creatures that take visitors to “another world” and a realm of fun. Two special nights will also be held during this new season: “Night of the Vampires” on 13th October and “The Great Night of Halloween” on 31st October.

X Marks The Spot – Lost Treasure Holidays

Image by sasint CC0

Bored with your regular package holiday? Why not go on an altogether different kind of adventure where you could hunt for lost treasure during your break!

Destination: New Orleans

The lost treasure: The loot of pirate Jean Lafitte

Jean Lafitte was known for plundering merchant ships in the Gulf of Mexico and stashing the loot to retrieve later. It comes as no surprise then that, following his sudden death in the 1820s, word got out of treasure to be found. Two locations have been identified – Lake Borgne off the coast of New Orleans, and 5km east of the Old Spanish Trail near the Sabine River in a gum tree grove!

The best time to head to New Orleans is in April when the music festival season starts. The weather is pleasant at this time of year, but there are likely to be hints of the extremely hot days in store during the summer months. October is another key time to visit, not only has the weather cooled off a little, but there is a great carnival atmosphere around Halloween. 

Mardi Gras Image by skeeze CC0

Destination: France

The lost treasure: A golden owl originally to be exchanged for a 1 million francs

In 1993 Max Valentin hid a golden owl somewhere in the French countryside. His aim was to inspire everyone in France to become a professional treasure hunter and his carrot on a stick, so to speak, was for what would have originally been a 1 million franc reward, in the form of a more valuable replica owl, to whoever found it. Max – not his real name by the way, he was actually author Regis Hauser – went on to dish out 11 clues, apparently one person came very close to finding it in 1999. Max Valentin died in a car crash in 2009 taking the precise location with him, but it has been announced that the reward will be honoured to whoever finds the owl.

France is huge – so where should you go if it is your first visit to the country? Paris is top of the bill, followed by the Loire Valley; Provence, and the French Rivera are also absolute musts! The Alps! Got to squeeze the Alps in, and it would be an absolute shame if you missed some key winemaking regions such as Champagne, Burgundy, or Bordeaux.

Provence Image by kirkandmimi CC0

Destination: New Mexico

The lost treasure: 16 tonnes of gold

While you might have trouble getting the gold back in your suitcase, finding the buried treasure of Leon Trabuco and co. in the New Mexico Desert will certainly spice up your Instagram stream! Story goes that in the Great Depression Leon and his associates predicted that the price of gold would explode sometime soon, so they decided to keep hold of as much as they could by burying it in the desert. While Leon was right, gold became worth LOADS, he didn’t foresee the Gold Reserve Act coming into force, which basically made private ownership of gold illegal and they were unable to sell their stash. When he died Leon took the exact location of the gold with him.

New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment, but there is even a place within this land that stands out from its neighbours – Taos. The landscape here is powerful,  behind the town are snow-capped mountain peaks, volcanic plateaux that spill dramatically into the Rio Grande Gorge, and the skies are HUGE. Expect magnificent sunsets, dreamy blue skies, and spectacular storm clouds capable of dwarfing these epic vistas.

New Mexico Image by mdherren CC0

Destination: Key West

The lost treasure: $200 million+ of gold and silver.

Raging hurricanes are fairly common in this part of the world, and back in 1622 they sealed the fate of a number of cargo ships passing through. It is said that these ships were in fact carrying an unusual cargo – gold and silver, to the tune of $700 million no less in today’s money. In 1985 a whopping $500 million worth of this treasure was found buried less than 160 kilometers off the coast of Key West leaving experts convinced that there is still plenty left to find!

Key West, AKA the pathway to paradise, is billed as a tropical oasis ideal for diving – made all the more enticing at the thought of finding $200 million worth of treasure! Lionfish, angelfish and stingrays are just some of the fish you’ll find in the reefs here, plus dolphins and turtles make the Keys their home too. The crystal clear water, along with occasionally turbulent weather, also makes this the place to be for wreck diving, presently tours take in the newly sunken Vandenberg, a 520-foot U.S. military missile-tracking ship.

Key West Image by nextvoyage CC0

Jetcost Flights Comparison Review – Travel App of the Month September 2018

Everyone loves a bargain, especially if it means having more spending money for holiday! People also want finding that bargain to be super easy. Enter an app that makes it a cinch to find competitively priced flights, favourite searches, and works offline….

What is the Jetcost App?

It is a free flight comparison app and the new updated version has a range of features that makes it really easy to use.

What does the Jetcost App do?

Jetcost offers the usual comparison service and adds a customised search experience by allowing users access to their search history and bookmarked results. Users can do this EVEN WHILE THEY ARE OFFLINE! This makes it perfect for browsing your travel itinerary while still on a plane, or in your remote destination that has no signal or wi-fi.

  • Access flight information – departure and arrival locations, times, duration, number of stops, waiting times, etc.
  • Filter results by flight duration, airlines, stops, travel class, departure and arrival times, smart time intervals, etc.
  • View search history and favourite
  • Continue searches where you left off.
  • Access search history at anytime, anywhere.
  • Swipe to either delete an itinerary, or add it to bookmarks.

Who is the Jetcost App good for?

Thrifty travellers, frequent travellers, business travellers, backpackers, bargain hunters, savvy travellers, busy travellers.

What do the Jetcost App Reviews say?

Reviews focus on the ease of use and lack of ads – not bad for a free app! Links to less than reputable travel agents has been mentioned, but Jetcost only claims to offer users the info, not recommend which bookings to make.

Jetcost Comparison App is available on iTunes