How to get a good night’s sleep on holiday

A holiday should be an enjoyable, relaxing experience – but if you can’t sleep well while you’re away, it may end up being something rather different. Most people sleep best in their own homes, so it can be difficult to get used to a hotel bedroom. Here are a few tips to allow you to wake up in the morning refreshed and ready for the day ahead.

Freshen up the room’s air
Overly hot, stuffy rooms are unlikely to be comfortable places to sleep, especially if you’re staying somewhere with a warm, muggy climate. If your hotel has air conditioning, make sure it’s switched on as soon as you arrive. You can stop the air drying out too much by leaving the door to the bathroom open after you’ve had a hot shower. If there’s no AC, then sleeping with the window slightly open is often a good idea, as it will allow air to circulate.

Get the right bed
There’s no more important item of furniture in a hotel room than the bed, so be choosy when you’re making your reservation. Look for hotels that advertise new beds, since these are likely to feel smoother and more comfortable. Bear in mind that larger mattresses are often softer than smaller ones, so a double bed rather than a king-size one may be more suitable for you if you prefer a little more support at night. Don’t feel pressured into accepting a room if you don’t like the bed.

Bring a little piece of home
One reason for sleeping poorly on holiday is the unfamiliarity of your surroundings. You can help make your hotel room feel a little more like a home by packing a photo or two in your luggage and placing them on your bedside table. It’s also a good idea to take something small from your normal evening routine and bring it with you on holiday. For example, if you usually have a particular drink or snack before bed, ask room service to make it for you and bring it up at the appropriate time.

Avoid night noise
Many hotels, even quite expensive ones, are less peaceful than you would hope. Sometimes the problem is noise from public areas or other guests’ rooms filtering through thin walls; sometimes it’s the sound of traffic from the street outside. Rooms on higher floors are usually quieter, as are those at the rear of the building. A top-floor room will have no noise from above, either. Finally, pack a pair of earplugs – though make sure you’ll be able to hear if the alarm goes off.

Keep the room dark
Lots of people find it easier to sleep when the room is dark. If the curtains don’t quite meet in the middle, and are letting light in, try clipping them tight with a couple of clothes pegs – strange but effective! Another option is to try a sleep mask, which is basically a blindfold! You’re unlikely to be given one on the plane when you’re flying to a European destination, so it’s best to buy one before you leave home: even the highly rated best-selling pure silk sleeping mask only costs a few pounds on Amazon, and is well worth the investment.

A taste of Northern Culture: A city break in Gothenburg, Sweden

A city break provides the perfect antidote to the usual summer perils of sunburn and sand in your picnic hamper. Not only will you avoid the bustle of crowded resort towns, a city break can also give you a genuine insight into the culture of the country you are visiting.

A fashionable destination
For the traveller set on selecting something a little bit different this summer, a journey north to Scandinavia can be an inviting prospect. Always a popular destination, Scandinavia is especially fashionable at the moment thanks to its cultural exports in television and literature. And where better to sample this cultural smorgasbord of the north than in Sweden’s second city, Gothenburg?

No culture shock
Exploring the city may remind Brits of home. Crossing the Gothia river, leaving a traditional pub on your way to visiting the fashionable clothing shops along cobblestone streets, you may understand why the locals refer to their city as “Little London”. Gothenburg is like Britain’s capital in many ways. Indeed, the big surprise for many visitors is the almost complete lack of any culture shock that will greet you. Along with the comfortingly familiar blend of historic and stylishly modern buildings that characterise the city’s landscape, you will probably find that most of the people you meet will speak perfect English – and most are more than happy to practice their second language with visitors!

Gothenburg Culture Festival in August
Gothenburg makes for an exciting destination throughout the summer, as the city transforms itself into one big venue for the extensive programme of events that make up the Gothenburg Culture festival. The 2015 festival runs between the 11th and 16th of August, and includes everything from street performances and concerts to exhibitions of renowned artists and environmental sciences. It is a truly mixed bag of entertainment.

Climate
Gothenburg temperatures are generally a little fresher than most of the British Isles in the summer, and 20C (68F) is viewed as a good seasonal average. Take a day trip out to the coast, though – to stunning Saltholmen, or to the quiet coastal town of Marstrand – and you will enjoy a summer’s day every bit as bright, peaceful and picturesque as anything Europe can offer.

Dining
Whether you find yourself dining by the coast, or perhaps in the city’s feskekörka (literally “fish church”), fresh seafood is the dining experience of the city. Meatballs may be the national dish, but fish is Gothenburg’s main passion. Drinking and dining can be costly hobbies in all parts of Sweden, but you will usually find that the quality of service makes up for the higher prices. Equally, accommodation is a little pricier than you might expect in the UK. And, while every price point is catered for, you may find that you are getting a little less for your money than you would expect back home if you always choose the budget option.

Travel Information
The good news is that not everything about your trip is expensive. Gothenburg has great connections to the outside world, with train links to Norway, Denmark, and to the Swedish capital Stockholm. The city has a ferry port and two airports, both offering direct flights to and from the UK. Flights out of Heathrow run twice a day and prices can be very competitive, with a return trip easily coming in below £150 per person if you are flexible with your travel arrangements. Similarly, the exchange rate has become increasingly attractive to Britons in the past year, so cash in your sterling, buy a few thousand kroner, and make this summer the perfect time to live out your dreams of a Nordic adventure!

Holiday Inspiration: Combine history and beautiful beaches in Zadar, Croatia

While Dubrovnik is the best-known of Croatia’s Adriatic cities, Zadar, located further to the north, has typically been overlooked by British travellers. This is a shame, because Zadar has a similar blend of medieval and Renaissance history with stunning natural beauty while still remaining relatively uncrowded, especially early in the season.

Beaches
The Zadar region is home to a mix of both sandy and pebbly beaches running all along the coastline. Kolovare beach is the traditional destination for locals, while tourists often gravitate to beach camps outside the city itself which offer a wide variety of activities, including boating, surfing and more.

Some of the region’s best beaches are on the island of Pasman, where our photograph at the top of this newsletter was taken; a boat trip to Uglijan island also gives access to neighbouring Pasman, far enough from the tourists of Zadar to be pleasantly peaceful, but close enough to be perfect for an afternoon journey.

Climate
Zadar’s Adriatic climate is hot in summer, but not scorchingly so; average highs in June hover around 26C (79F), while in July, the hottest month, they can approach 30C (86F). Sea temperatures are mild, and cool evenings are a popular time for strolls along the promenade or through the old town. Bars, restaurants and cafes typically stay open late.

The old town and more modern attractions
The heart of Zadar is the old town, a compact medieval city with narrow, cobbled streets. Highlights include the many historic churches, the oldest of which is St Simeon’s. This church houses the resplendent 14th-century silver reliquary of Saint Simeon, the city’s patron saint. Other historic sites include the church of St Donat, now a museum, and the Roman forum.

More modern attractions include the Sea Organ, built in 2005 along the waterfront promenade. This intricate network of underwater pipes turns the action of the waves into haunting music.

Medieval Festival in July
The community is proud of its medieval history: in July, Zadar plays host to a medieval festival, complete with parades and tournaments. Look out for displays of marksmanship with the crossbow, a traditional weapon still held in high regard here.

Kornati Islands National Park
Just south of Zadar lies the Kornati archipelago, a group of over 100 small islands. Many of these are part of Kornati Islands National park, a protected area of stunning beauty. Cruises through the mostly-uninhabited islands offer a chance to see a wide range of natural environments in a small area, as well as an opportunity to sunbathe or swim in isolated (though still popular) spots like the sandy Lojena beach.

An update on car hire following the DVLA changes

New rules
The following information is a summary of the DVLA advice site. This information does not apply to people living in Northern Ireland.

Since 8 June 2015, the paper counterpart to the photocard driving licence isn’t valid and is no longer issued by DVLA. The paper counterpart was introduced to display driving licence details that could not be included on the photocard.

A new computer system has now taken over from the paper counterpart, which includes some vehicle categories you are entitled to drive and any endorsement/penalty points.

Since 8 June 2015, new penalty points (endorsements) are only recorded electronically, and won’t be printed or written on either photocard licences or paper driving licences.

If you are hiring a car on holiday, the hire car company will need to see your driving licence. Some companies will also want information on any endorsements/penalty points too.

You should check with the hire company what they need to see when you hire a vehicle. If you’re asked for evidence of what vehicles you can drive or confirmation of any penalty points, you can request a unique code from the government’s website which allows you to share your driving licence details, or you can download a summary of your driving licence record. The code lasts for up to 72 hours and will allow the hire companies to make any necessary checks.

If you cannot generate a code online then you can call 0300 083 0013 and DVLA will provide you with a code.

Alternatively, you can call DVLA on 0300 790 6801 and leave permission for your driving record to be checked verbally by a nominated hire company. This also applies if you have a paper licence that was issued before 1998.

Not all vehicle hire companies will ask for this information and we advise that you check with your hire company.

Useful links
For full details, see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/driving-licence-changes
To generate your code, go to: https://www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence

Our conclusion and simple advice:
The BBC has reported that some people have had problems using the new system.

Our advice is simple:

1. If you’re hiring a car, then just before you set off on your holiday, generate a code just to be on the safe side in case your car hire firm asks for it. You’ll need your driving licence number, your National Insurance number, and the postcode associated with your driving licence. BE CAREFUL! The code only lasts for 72 hours, so do this as close to when you leave your house as you can.

2. There are lots of pitfalls for the unwary when hiring a car abroad. You can find out more on this below, and at our sister site CHEW Insurance.

Special offer: 10% discount on Car Hire Excess Waiver Insurance
Most car rental companies charge an excess if you have an accident. This means that you will be responsible for the first part of the claim.

The part you are responsible for is called the “excess” and it varies from one car hire company to another. However, it’s usually between £500 and £2,000 depending on the vehicle type you rent – but it can be substantially more on high-value cars.

You can protect yourself against these charges by purchasing an excess waiver, sometimes known as a Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW). Some companies will try to sell you a waiver when you book the hire car, often with hard-sell tactics, but it can cost over £20 a day! It’s better to buy your policy in the UK before you travel: you’ll save money and get more comprehensive cover too.

So if you’re hiring a car when you travel, go to CHEW Insurance and use discount codeJUL15 for a 10% discount.