Make your smartphone a travel force to be reckoned with!

Whether you’re a late adopter of 21st-century tech or a keen lover of the latest apps, your smartphone is one tool you don’t want to leave at home on vacation. Harness its power with the sleekest and most practical travel apps to make your next trip run smoothly.

We’ve covered a lot of apps over the last few months, so we thought it would be useful to give you a quick roundup of everything you should be considering on your phone for your next trip, including some new goodies we haven’t mentioned before. There’s bound to be something here that you’ll find useful.

You can easily find any of these apps for iPhone or Android – just search for them on your app store.

Booking your holiday
Staying connected while travelling can be a lifesaver – literally – but your smartphone can be an important resource even before you’ve left home. Use a flight aggregator like Kayak or Skyscanner to search for plane tickets.

Search for a room on Hotels.com or get a cosier, more residential space with Airbnb.

If you’re comfortable winging it, wait until arrival and get deep discounts on your accommodations with Hotel Tonight.

TripIt will forward all your confirmation emails to a single custom itinerary, to help you stay organised.

When you travel
Skip the jet lag with JetLag Genie, which helps you adjust your sleep schedule before departure.

Generate a packing list with PackPoint to ensure you don’t leave anything behind, and prepare to hit the road!

In the airport, GateGuru can show you a map of the terminal, reviews of onsite restaurants, and even estimated wait times for the security line.

Find a prime spot to wait for your flight using Lounge Buddy.

Stock up on reading material for the flight by saving articles to Pocket for offline use.

When you’re on holiday
Once you’re back on solid ground, you may be used to using Google Maps to get around town. If you don’t have internet access in your new destination, try MapsMe instead, or Tripadvisor offline maps (you can download a whole city guide on TripAdvisor).

HopStop and AllSubway can help you navigate even the most mind-boggling public transport system.

If you’re renting a car, download GasBuddy to help you find the nearest fill-up station.

Are you hopping from city to city by bus or train? Rome2Rio (called FetchMyWay on Android), compiles a seemingly endless number of overland routes to any destination you can imagine.

Uber operates in many cities, and can be a quick and easy way to get a taxi. In some cities Uber is cheap, but in some cities like Dublin it’s very expensive, so keep an eye on costs.

Expensify can help you document expenses, but for keeping better track of your travel budget, install a more comprehensive finance app like Mint.

You’ll never be strapped for cash with the PinPin ATM Finder, and you can be sure you’re leaving the right tip with Tipulator.

Finding things to do
When the dinner bell rings, you may be tempted to rely on TripAdvisor and Yelp for restaurant reviews. These are good resources, but you can get specific dish recommendations on Tastespotting.

For a unique take on sightseeing, you can find locals’ favourite hotspots on Localeur and upcoming events on Goby.

Invite a local friend to join you on the WithLocals app.

Need help with a language barrier? Rely on Google Translate or hire an interpreter via Whym.

Safety
No matter where your travels take you, put safety first. TravelSafe hosts a database of emergency phone numbers around the world. You can even pin your destination’s police and ambulance contacts to your phone’s home screen.

So no matter which of our travel hotspots this month takes your fancy, keeping your journey in the 21st century is a snap with the right app!

Tips for healthy eating while travelling

One of the delights of travelling is the chance to experience new cuisines and sample authentic ethnic foods. Enjoying a delicious meal in a foreign city is as good as visiting the national museums – you learn about the traditions, culture and people from the food they share with you.

In the excitement of discovering a new country, however, there is always the temptation to go overboard. Who can say no to “just one more” bite? You’re on holiday after all!

But sometimes a sudden introduction of a new food can upset your digestion or disrupt your healthy eating habits. Here are a few tips to help you eat healthy on the road.

Be prepared
If you have dietary restrictions because of allergies or health conditions, or take medication regularly, make sure you know in advance what foods are common at your destination. A lot of restaurants publish their menus online, so you can get an idea of the sort of food, and the types of restaurant, that you should expect.

Spend a little time planning how to substitute your usual treats. When you arrive, try and stick to your normal eating schedule as much as possible. Keep a small snack in your handbag or daypack, just in case there are delays.

You can sometimes bring in snacks from the UK, but this varies from country to country. Be sure to check before you go, so that you don’t fall foul of customs!

Before you go, finding restaurants on TripAdvisor, or other online sources, can be useful. That way, you won’t just stop at the first fast-food place you find when you’re hungry and gorge on unhealthy food, while missing the local treats on offer.

Vitamins and medications
If you take vitamin tablets or other health supplements, you may wish to take these on holiday with you. That way, if you can’t find healthy options, or fancy spoiling yourself, at least your body can get some of the nutrients it needs.

If you take medications, check before you go whether there are any specific foods that you should avoid, and whether you can combine your medications with alcohol. Check with your pharmacist if you are unsure, and read the information that comes with your medication, even if you’ve been taking the medication for a while: it’s useful to remind yourself of things you might have forgotten.

Some foods and drink can prevent medicines from fully working. For example, the painkillers paracetamol and codeine are metabolised by the liver, so drinking alcohol as well can put a lot of stress on the liver. Thinking of a classic breakfast buffet, grapefruit can interfere with statins, and milk can interfere with some antibiotics.

Master the art of nibbling
Do taste the local speciality, but don’t binge on it. Give your body time to adjust to unaccustomed seasonings and sauces. Share a plate of starters with your partner or table mates, so you can sample without overeating. Eat slowly to savour every bite. If you discover something you really enjoy, learn how to pronounce it correctly so you can order it again!

Ask questions
In a new restaurant, tell your waiter or waitress about any dietary restrictions you have, so they can advise you about certain dishes. Ask for the house recommendations. If the menu doesn’t explain a dish adequately, ask how it’s prepared. Do express your appreciation to the staff for their consideration.

Be aware that not all countries are as used to dealing with food allergies as the UK. There can also be language barriers and a lack of training: some staff do not fully appreciate what “dairy” means, and all the items that it includes, so you might need to spell out all the things you can’t eat (e.g. butter, milk, yoghurt, etc.). If in doubt, play it safe!

Drink water and avoid dehydration
Drink plenty of water every day. Keep a bottle of water in your jacket or bag. Staying hydrated keeps your energy level high, reduces overeating, and helps your body flush out toxins and waste.

Bottled water can be purer than tap water. In some places this isn’t a problem, but in other areas, drinking the local tap water (including ice in drinks) can make you ill if you are not used to it. Check online, and in your travel guide.

Sometimes, feeling hungry can really just mean you are dehydrated, and it’s water that your body needs, not food. This can lead you to over-eat and not get enough fluids: a double whammy!

Alcohol
Enjoy the wine and spirits with a little common sense. Locally brewed beer can be a pleasure, and a wine or whisky tasting can be a highlight of your trip. But too much alcohol can lead to dehydration or can lead you to make poor food choices. When it comes to alcohol, aim for quality, not quantity!

Be aware that alcohol can make you more intoxicated and dehydrated when you are flying, due to the effects of altitude and cabin pressure, so be especially careful around the start and end of your holiday.

Shop locally
When you come across a neighbourhood market, stop and shop. Locally-grown fruits and vegetables will often be fresher and more economical that supermarket purchases. It’s also an adventure in and of itself to navigate a foreign grocery, with all its sights, sounds and aromas. Pick up fresh or dried fruits, cheese, bread and pastries, find a scenic spot, and enjoy a picnic lunch.

Come home healthy!
Like music, food is a universal language. You may come home with new recipes to try in your own kitchen, or a new appreciation for a food you once disliked. Above all, though, come home healthy.

Sensational Split: Life on the Adriatic

Split, the pearl on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, offers the rare combination of a beach and city break. This is a city rich in heritage and culture, but also gives locals and visitors the opportunity to head over to the beach when they need to do a spot of relaxing. It’s a great city to visit, and temperatures will soon be pleasant at this time of year, with average highs of 17C (63F) and 23C (73F) in April and May respectively.

Roaming around a Roman palace
The UNESCO heritage site and world-famous Diocletian’s Palace is the heart of the city. Built around 300AD, this Roman palace is one of the best-preserved sites of its era. The palace feels like a separate city, packed full of shops, restaurants and bars. You can easily lose yourself in its maze of streets and alleys for a whole day.

There’s always something going on here, whether it’s music, theatre or dance. Don’t miss the centuries-old ceremony of the changing of the guards, every day at 12 pm. At the start of May, the city’s annual “Festival of Flowers” showcases hundreds of displays around the palace, including within the palace’s cellars.

Italian food
Due to a close historical relationship with Italy, a short trip of less than 150 miles across the Adriatic, menus along the coastline are heavily inspired by Italian food: risottos, fish and seafood are all popular dishes in many restaurants. You’re sure to enjoy the world-class local wine in bars and restaurants throughout the city, and there are plenty of vineyards surrounding the city where you can learn from the growers and, most importantly, try more of their produce.

Life at the beach
Split’s position on the Adriatic means that beach trips are an essential part of life for locals, and you’ll find whole families flocking to them on weekends and summer evenings. The most popular and famous beach in the city is Bacvice beach, which is one of the few sandy beaches on the coast. This may not be the best beach in the area, but if you want to live like a local then find a spot on the sand and join everyone relaxing, eating and playing picigin, a hugely popular Croatian beach game.

If you want a more peaceful and relaxing beach visit then you’re better off walking west, following the coastline round to Jezinac. The beaches here are a good alternative, with bars offering great sunset views.

Boats
You can’t fail to notice the impressive collection of boats and yachts moored in the city; if you’d like to see more or dream about which one you’ll buy, the “Croatia Boat Show” gives you that chance. The show runs 5th – 9th April.

Head for the hills!
Anyone looking to escape the crowds of the city, or wanting to get back to nature, shouldn’t leave without visiting the tree-filled hills of Marjan. This shady park looms over the city and is an ideal escape for locals and tourists alike. There’s good reason why locals refer to Marjan as the “lungs” of the city: it’s a great place for walking, cycling and relaxing in general. There are also plenty of secluded beaches dotted around that you will often have all to yourself.

Maps for your smartphone that work without wifi

While on holiday, many of us don’t have a mobile phone data plan that covers data while we’re out and about, and it’s not always possible to connect your phone to wifi. This can make finding your way around town difficult.

The solution is to download a map or guide before starting your European adventure.

If you know you’re going to be spending some time in Vienna, Siena, or thousands of other cities and towns, the following apps for both iOS and Android will allow you to expertly navigate like a pro, without needing an internet connection.

Additionally, assuming you have a sufficient battery charge, these apps allow you to plan your trip while you are still travelling, on your flight or train ride before arrival.

MAPS.ME has much better offline maps than Google Maps
Maps.me is very impressive in its scope, and covers nearly the entire world. The level of detail includes every statue in a park and allows for flawless navigation to your next destination, wherever that may be.

Additionally, pharmacies, supermarkets hospitals, and public transport options are all clearly listed and marked. The app allows for fantastic zooming in and out, as well as rotation of the map, on any device without ever freezing up in front of your eyes. You simply need to download your destination when you have a data connection, either before you go on holiday or using the wifi in your hotel.

Download MAPS.ME for iPhone
Download MAPS.ME for Android

izi.TRAVEL: offline maps and audio guides for museums and cities
Increasingly, museums are giving visitors access to high-speed internet, which lets you use GPS location and QR code scanning to provide information about specific exhibits. This makes for a more interactive experience to museum goers.

However, even if this is not available to you, izi.TRAVEL allows you to download these audio guides before your visit to make the most of Europe’s finest museums in nearly every country.

While the app also provides city maps, Maps.ME is considerably better for that; the real treat is the audio guides, which are made by travel professionals, art history professors and a community of over six million users.

Download izi.TRAVEL for iPhone
Download izi.TRAVEL for Android

Both apps offer a lot with no price tag

Just because you don’t have a mobile internet connection when you’re in Europe, either due to cost or wanting to get away from your phone for a while, these two apps give you a sense of direction and “being in the know” before your arrival.

Ten events for a perfect spring getaway

With freezing temperatures continuing across the UK, we look at some of Europe’s best events over the next few months.

1. Dance away the winter cobwebs at one of Vienna’s grand balls
Vienna’s hugely popular ballroom dancing season runs until 25th February and offers 2,000 hours of dancing! The most famous event is the Opera Ball which offers a unique backstage view of the Opera House.

After whirling your partner around, make sure to take in sights including St. Stephen’s Cathedral and warm yourself up with a traditional strudel.

Temperatures up to 4C (39F).

2. Gorge on chocolate alongside the canals of Amsterdam
Chocolate lovers flock to Amsterdam’s Chocoa Festival (25th – 26th February) where some of Europe’s finest chocolatiers display their wares and visitors indulge in what is on offer.

Possibly a perfect late Valentine’s Day present but be warned, you might need to spend a few days wandering the canals of this famous city to work off those calories.

Temperatures up to 8C (46F).

3. Join in with a Greek carnival
The carnival season peaks on 26th February and the seaside town of Patras is the undisputed home of Greek carnivals. The Night and Grand Parades see thousands of revellers hit the streets with huge models and lanterns paraded through town.

Visitors may combine this with a few days in Athens or on one of the 6,000 Greek islands.

Temperatures up to 14C (57F).

4. Discover more than tulips at Dutch flower festivals 
Two of Europe’s largest flower festivals are held simultaneously in the Netherlands, with the Keukenhof Flower Show (23rd March – 21st May) and the Bloemencorso display (19th – 23rd April) drawing crowds.

Entrance to Keukenhof costs around £14 and is 45-minute journey from Amsterdam.

Temperatures up to 12C (54F) during April.

5. Celebrate the season at the Budapest Spring Festival
This long-running festival (31st March – 23rd April) combines a huge array of classical music, jazz, opera and theatre, all set within Budapest’s historic centre.

Between performances, don’t miss St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Chain Bridge. Many choose to have dinner on a luxurious river cruise along the Danube which divides the city.

If it gets chilly, warm yourself up with goulash, Hungary’s national dish (a beef stew with paprika).

Temperatures up to 15C (59F).

6. Watch fantastic films in Brussels old town
A regular on the European film festival circuit since 1983, the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival (4th – 16th April) specialises in science fiction, thriller and horror films. Just ensure you try some of the luxurious chocolate before you leave.

Temperatures up to 13C (55F).

7. Stroll around the world’s best gardens in France
The International Garden Festival (from 20th April) in France’s Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire region will appeal to those with green fingers. This long-running festival attracts gardeners and visitors from around the globe and could be an alternative for regulars of the Chelsea Flower Show.

With Paris under three hours away, it is possible to combine this event with a city break.

Temperatures up to 11C (52F).

8. Taste the best ice cream Florence has to offer
Those with a sweet tooth shouldn’t miss Florence’s annual Gelato Festival this April (21st – 25th), when gelato lovers flock to this famous city, eager to combine great architecture with the world’s tastiest ice cream.

Accessible from many UK airports and with a wide range of accommodation options, Florence is a popular choice year-round. The world famous Uffizi Gallery (free on the first Sunday of the month) and Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo di Firenze which adorns every city guide), ensure there is plenty to appeal to those looking to soak up some culture.

Temperatures up to 19C (66F).

9. Sample the finest wines from Barcelona
The Priorat Wine Fair (30th April – 1st May) offers the finest in Catalonian wine, whilst tantalisingly close to the city of Barcelona. There really is something for everyone in this seaside city, boasting great food, culture and architecture.

Football fans won’t want to miss a tour of the legendary Camp Nou for £22, and may even catch a glimpse of Messi at a game.

Temperatures up to 18C (64F).

10. Enjoy Maltese fireworks in the Med 
Held annually since the country’s entry into the EU in 2004, the Malta International Fireworks Festival in late April has increasingly attracted visitors to the island’s capital, Valletta.

Excellent museums and churches, such as St. John’s Co-Cathedral, have boosted Valletta’s reputation as a cultural hotspot, and the warm weather makes it a perfect destination for a short break.

Temperatures up to 19C (66F).

These are just ten of hundreds of unique events occurring across Europe. If these don’t appeal there’s bound to be something to suit to your interests!

The Northern Lights: a dramatic holiday with a difference

When your winter routine starts to feel stuffy and stale, consider a relaxing trip to the North. It is here that you can cross off one experience from your bucket list: witnessing the wonder and awe of the elusive, electric Northern Lights.

The savvy traveller knows that booking an off-season holiday can be just as rewarding as a summertime trip. Appearing in a variety of vibrant colours, from pale yellow to deep violet, the Northern Lights —also known as the Aurora Borealis in the Northern Hemisphere — provide a spectacular display in the night sky.

Most commonly, the lights appear in hues of green and pink. To the human eye, the colours aren’t as vivid as you will see in the classic long-exposure photographs, but they are still a beautiful natural spectacle to behold.

Winter provides the ideal opportunity to encounter the Northern Lights. The recipe for a sensational show is simple: dark, clear skies. With the longer winter nights that the northern countries of Iceland, Sweden, and Norway are known for, there are many opportunities to view the dazzling auroral display.

Spend your next holiday relaxing indoors, cosying up with a hot cup of tea or cocoa, and pulling up a front-row seat to view the outstanding light display put on by Mother Nature right outside your window.

See the lights in Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland’s tourism industry has exploded in recent years, and for good reason. The country is remote and its landscape is dramatic, providing stunning vistas of mountains, waterfalls, lava fields, and coastline.

Even Iceland’s largest city, Reykjavik, has a small-town feel. The city’s quaint size means it doesn’t even put off enough light pollution to hide the Northern Lights from view; they are easily seen from the downtown area. Often, on nights with high aurora activity, Reykjavik will even shut off its lights to give its citizens and tourists a better view!

After enjoying your stay in Reykjavik, consider a drive through the Golden Circle to see such landmarks as Gulfoss and Geysir.

There is plenty in Iceland to do and see by day, and the awe-inspiring Northern Lights to enjoy by night.

Boldly go north to Svalbard, Norway
Northern Norway is another hot spot for watching the Northern Lights flicker over the Arctic. The northernmost cities of Norway are a popular location for viewing the lights, but even further north is the Norwegian island of Svalbard.

Svalbard is home to Longyearbyen, the world’s most northernmost town, and is also home to the world’s most northernmost airport. If the lights shimmering in the sky weren’t enough, reindeer have also been known to roam the streets of Svalbard, and the North Pole is a mere 1300 kilometres away.

Dog-sledding and snowmobiling are common pastimes in this secluded land, but relaxing and taking in the sights of the landscape and the sky provide a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of your everyday life.

The experience of visiting Svalbard is truly otherworldly. Consider a late-winter holiday to this final frontier.

Wrap up and head to Abisko National Park, Sweden
Sweden, Norway’s neighbour, has similar opportunities for enjoying the Northern Lights. Like Iceland and Norway, the north is known for its “Midnight Sun” in the summertime, but the opportunity to view the Northern Lights is of equal intrigue.

Northern Light sightings begin in September and last through until March in the Swedish Lapland. The Aurora Borealis is most famously seen from the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park.

Abisko National Park offers a chairlift to the observation tower. Spend time enjoying the Northern Lights exhibition, grabbing a hot beverage from the cafe, and purchasing a souvenir for your friends back home who will be green with envy.

Winter weather can sometimes inhibit the viewing of the lights, but Abisko has a reputation for clear skies. Seeing the Northern Lights from this vantage point is highly likely.

Where else might I see the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights are also frequently spotted in Finland, Ireland, and the Denmark territories of Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Temperatures
Winter temperatures in the northern countries of Iceland, Norway, and Sweden typically range from -15C (5F) to 0C (32F). Dress warmly, and don’t let the cold weather dissuade you from the experience of a lifetime!

When to go
While the Northern Lights can sometimes be seen as early as August, the highest-activity months are September through until March.

Aurora activity is higher during winter months, however, a trip does not guarantee a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Check the weather and an Aurora Forecast for your chances of aurora activity based on your location, or strike up a conversation with a friendly local to ask for tips on hunting the aurora. For locals, aurora hunting is a way of life!

Some Northern Light excursions, such as Reykjavik’s Northern Lights cruise, will offer a refund if viewing conditions are poor on your chosen date.

So avoid the influx of summer tourists and the pricier summertime season and plan a visit to see the Northern Lights this February.

Tell me more
To find out more, and see photos that have been adjusted for how the human eye sees the Northern Lights, take a look here and here.

Tips for travelling light

In the world of travel, light is better. The advantages of being able to travel light include saving time, energy and money, all of which translate into a more enjoyable trip.

Why would you want to travel light?
Of course, the easiest way is to travel with a smaller suitcase!  Travelling with carry-on luggage that can fit into the overhead bin in the plane means no lost luggage and no waiting at the luggage carousel. Not having to pay for checked luggage on a plane, or tipping porters, also saves money. Smaller, lighter luggage is easier when navigating stairs, trains, buses or taxis, and when getting through crowds of people.

For carry-on or checked luggage, the first consideration is picking lightweight luggage. Choosing light luggage can save more than two kilos in weight for a carry-on, without sacrificing wheels or durability.  Soft-cover luggage can be more convenient, but you can buy hard cover suitcases that are also lightweight. Search Google for “lightest suitcases” to get some ideas.

Packing Light
Packing for warm climates is easier and requires less clothing. Clothing should be made of lightweight material, mix and match and be able to be worn in layers. One rule of thumb is that all tops should match each other and match all bottoms, drastically reducing the number of articles of clothing that are necessary.

If this sounds boring, add in a fun accessory. For women, scarves are not only light and versatile, but are also safer than wearing jewellery.  Leaving the jewellery at home saves space and weight too!

Clothing that can be worn for more than one occasion or purpose also lightens the load. Pack one good, simple piece that can be dressed up or down with a scarf, belt, or tie.

Since shoes can be a heavy article of clothing, having shoes that are multi-purpose reduces the number of pairs required. Also, pack the lightest shoes and wear the heavy ones during travel.

Packing the Shoulder Bag
Reducing the small items in your shoulder bag may not seem like much, but definitely contributes to the ease of travelling light. Books can be reduced by using an electronic reader such as a Kindle, an iPad, or even just by using the free Kindle reader app on your phone. You can also exchange books with your fellow travellers, rather than carrying multiple books yourself.

Medications can be counted out for the number of days of the trip plus a few extra, always remembering to have a copy of the prescription in case you need more medication in an emergency.  Keep medications in your shoulder bag, close to hand.

If you want to travel with a water bottle, a flexible, refillable one is lighter and more convenient than a hard bottle. Remember the bottle must be empty when you pass through security, but you can fill it from a water fountain after security.

Cameras and smartphones
Bulky cameras and attachments can now be left at home because smartphones can take good quality photos, particularly with special clip-on lenses. The new Google Pixel phone, and the Samsung Galaxy S7, have particularly good cameras.

Final Check
As a final check, either lay everything out together or pack it a day or two in advance. The day before the trip begins, remove two items!  Looking at the remaining items, ask yourself if you really need if and if you are sure you will use it or wear it.

You can use a luggage scale to confirm the weight – digital and analogue scales are available – or you can stand on a bathroom scale with and without your luggage to measure the weight difference.

Preparing your phone for your holiday

Before you go on your next trip, taking some time to prepare your smartphone will help you to get the most out of it while you are on holiday. Here’s what you need to do:

Synchronise and delete unwanted data
Synchronise your phone with your computer before your trip. This will back up all your photos and other data, in case your phone is lost or stolen. (Your travel insurance or gadget insurance can never replace the magic moments stored on your phone.)

Once you’ve backed up, you can delete some things from your phone, to make sure there is lots of memory left for the photos and videos you will take on your holiday. As well as deleting unwanted apps that you no longer use, consider deleting photos and especially videos, because these take a lot of memory. You can also trim videos, just keeping the best bits, to reduce their size.

Roaming
Check that you have roaming turned on for your phone. This will allow you to use calls, text, and data while you are on holiday. You will often need to phone your network operator to arrange for roaming to be turned on. If you have recently changed your phone or your network, roaming will probably be turned off.

Be aware that charges apply for roaming, and it can be expensive. Fortunately, new EU legislation means that your network operator is now more limited in how much they can charge you, and from 15th June 2017 roaming charges in the EU will be abolished. (More information here.) You are best to use wifi abroad whenever you can, rather than your phone’s data connection, to be on the safe side.

It is most useful to turn data roaming off, but leave call and text roaming on. This means that your phone will not be able to keep using data to connect in the background, to retrieve emails etc, unless you are connected to wifi.

Apple roaming information is useful, and Google will give you Android roaming information too.

Know how to work your phone
Two very useful features are Flight Mode and the torch. (The torch illuminates the LED flash on your phone.) Make sure you know how to find these quickly. Search Google if you’re not sure.

Load up with travel apps
In previous newsletters we have covered some of the most useful apps. As a reminder:

  • Download TripAdvisor, open it, then download the offline city guide for the place you are visiting, if one is available. It’s free of charge. Then you can still read TripAdvisor when you don’t have an internet connection.
  • Download some kind of communication app to stay in touch with folks back home. Skype, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger would be useful. Make sure you add your family and friends to the app before you go, so that you can actually contact them!
  • Download a currency converter app such as XE. Load it up before you go away to get the latest exchange rates into the app before you travel.
  • Put a couple of games on your phone to pass the time. Go to your phone’s app store and you will quickly see the latest trending games. Many are free. Make sure the games don’t need the internet in order to work (test it before you go by turning on Flight Mode then playing the game).
  • Use the Sky TV app to record any TV programmes that you might miss while you’re away. (You can often use iPlayer to catch up when you get home, anyway.)

Social media
Just a word of caution: don’t write about your holiday publicly on social media until you get home. Otherwise you are advertising to the world that your house is unoccupied, and you might be in for a nasty surprise when you get home!

Reading material
Put the Kindle app onto your phone. It’s free, and you can get some free and very low cost books, including travel guides to the place you are visiting. This lets you save weight when packing, by leaving your books at home.

If you use Dropbox for storing your files, the Dropbox app has an offline mode, where you can download files for reading without an internet connection. This can be useful if you have newsletters or other files in PDF format that you wish to read.

Pack your charger, adapter and battery pack
Don’t forget to take your phone charger and its cable. You will also need a plug adapter for EU power sockets (check it fits the exact country you’re visiting).

You should also consider a spare external battery pack. These are quite cheap, and are readily available for iPhone and Android phones. The higher the capacity (measured in mAh), the more charge the battery pack will give you. Don’t forget to charge up the battery pack before you go away, because most do not come pre-charged.

A cultural winter getaway in Copenhagen

If you’re seeking a true white winter holiday, Denmark is your place and its capital, Copenhagen, offers the perfect mix of unique culture and snow-covered wilderness. As with most places in Europe during this time of year, things can get a bit chilly, but Scandinavia’s weather has its own special delights.

Exploring alternative Copenhagen and the side you haven’t seen
Denmark’s capital is well known for its old town, harbour and palaces, which should not be missed by first timers, but sometimes the city’s best attractions are hidden. One of the more popular alternative destinations is Freetown Christiania, well known for its sovereign governmental stance and 1960s lifestyle in the heart of Copenhagen. The odd little community is host to art-filled cafes, workshops, restaurants full of organic goods, and your fair share of amazing people-watching.

If you’re looking for a quick break from the city centre, the charming haven of Nokken is ideal for a relaxing day trip. Reminiscent of The Shire, you’ll find hobbit-style, tiny homes, bountiful gardens and spectacular sunset views of the harbour. Stop in one of the cozy cafes around town if you get chilly for a warming glass of “gløgg”, a local’s favourite Danish style hot spiced wine.

A dining experience beyond the tourist food trucks
When locals grab a bite to eat downtown, most turn to the new street food market on Paper Island (Papirøen). You’ll find quality dishes from around the world, most at an affordable price and some filling meals for as low as £5.

For a higher end Scandinavian meal, Noma is a favourite. The location couldn’t be better, sitting dead centre in the city, with gorgeous views of the river. It’s far enough away from the bustle that you’ll have a relaxing or romantic dining experience yet be near the action after dinner.

If you’re new to Denmark, don’t miss the traditional open-face sandwiches (smørrebrød) served in a variety of styles. A trip to Copenhagen isn’t complete until you’ve tasted Danish meatballs (frikadeller), which are being served up nearly everywhere you look.

Escape the city and see the country
This time of year, the snow is sure to be falling throughout Northern Europe, and there’s no better way to celebrate than breaking out the skis or snowboard. Since Denmark is a generally flat country, it doesn’t boast the extreme skiing that France and Italy may offer. Yet for those looking to get outside and take it easy on the hill, Hedelands Skicentre is perfect. The hill is only a 35-minute drive from downtown Copenhagen, making it a great option for a winter day trip. Most of the mountain is extremely user-friendly and has runs for any level of skier. Adult day tickets are only £11, and tickets for children are £6.

“Dyrehaven,” Danish for Deer Park, is another great option to see the countryside. It’s usually pretty quiet during the winter, which makes for peaceful strolls and exquisite wildlife viewing. The park is just north of the city – don’t forget to wrap up warm!

City essentials not to be missed
Nyhavn is one of Copenhagen’s most visited destinations, and while it may be busy, your first view of the port will show you why. The area is full of little restaurants surrounding the canal, and with a quick look around you’ll find that many have great live music. If it’s not too cold, do as the locals do and grab a beer from one of the shops and have a seat on the dock to enjoy the sunset.

For any beer fan, a tour of the Carlsberg brewery is a fascinating excursion. You’ll watch their unique brewing process that seems to provide beer to half of Europe. From the outside, you’d think Carlsberg is a castle for the old Danish king!

The ice rink at Frederiksberg Runddel is ideal for families or couples looking to join this age-old Danish tradition. Every year the area is transformed into a winter paradise offering a classic holiday experience. You can rent a pair of skates for £6.

Copenhagen is an amazing place to be during the winter months. You’ll dodge the tourist rush of summer and receive a true Danish experience, so don’t let the cold discourage you!

Using mobile apps to find holiday entertainment

The happy holiday memories that you look back on with fondness often come from the events and entertainment that you have experienced.

Whether it’s local musicians playing guitars in a restaurant in Kefalonia, eating and drinking in the beer halls of Munich during Oktoberfest, or listening to a Mozart concert in Vienna, these are memories to last a lifetime.

But how do you find the perfect event suited to you?

Find events and discounts with the Time Out app
One way is to use the Time Out app, which is free for iPhone or Android.  Time Out, as you may know if you live in London, is a respected entertainment listings magazine, first published in 1968: it has a long and distinguished pedigree of highlighting fun things to do.

The app covers the European cities of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Madrid, and Paris. The country of Croatia is also covered, as are the UK cities of London, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, and Manchester. This makes the app worth downloading for use at home as well as abroad.

Categories that you can explore include Things to do this week, Free events this week, Art this week, and Upcoming gigs. You can also book a theatre show, and find restaurants, bars, and pubs nearby.

Each event has a short write-up by Time Out staff, explaining what’s going on and what you can expect. The app gives dates and times for the event. There are also links to event websites, to give you more information. Usefully, there are user reviews, comments, and star ratings, so you can learn what to expect from others who have been to the event.

The app has “Exclusive Offers” too, which sometimes get updated every day. This is well worth a look.

The content changes often, so you can look at the app before you go, to get an idea of things you might like to do, and then check again while you’re on holiday to see if any last minute activities or offers have been added.

Overall, this is a very polished and useful app. If you are visiting any of the places its covers, it’s well worth downloading it, especially since it is free!

TripAdvisor app
While many people associate TripAdvisor more with hotel and restaurant reviews, it also has a good selection of what it calls “Things to Do”.

It has vast coverage, so most places in Europe will have listings. TripAdvisor mostly covers ongoing activities, such as museums, sights, theatres, bike tours, and spas, rather than short-term events such as festivals and carnivals.