Great travel apps to help you plan your holiday

Here are three lesser-known apps that will help you plan your next trip, from finding the cheapest and fastest transport and organising your suitcase, to communicating in different languages.

Packpoint – Your packing assistant
If you always realise that you forgot your pyjamas or toothbrush when you arrive at the destination, this app will help you remember everything you need to take.

There are various apps to help with packing for your holiday, but we chose this one because of its multiple options. PackPoint is like your butler: you indicate whether you are male or female, where you are going, days of stay, whether it is a business or pleasure trip, and what activities you want, and the app gives you a listing of things to pack.

Once the list of luggage is created and organised, you can share it with family, friends or colleagues so that they can also help.

PackPoint is available for download for free for both iPhone and Android devices through the official stores.

Duolingo – Quickly learn the basics of a new language
There are many reasons why Duolingo is one of the most widely-used applications for learning languages. Duolingo is 100% free, well-designed, with no extra charges, no subscriptions, no commercials, and offers a high-quality education at no cost.

Each lesson includes different exercises for speaking, listening, and translating, and feels like you are playing, which makes learning fun. The application divides the languages into different themes, from food to business, so you can practice the type of language you need most. You can also choose to improve grammar using the adverbs and pronouns option.

The method is based on developing a knowledge tree in which the user goes from one challenge to the next. This app has won thousands of fans because the strategy used for learning is not memorising but practice. This makes it easier to learn a language.

In addition, this application adds a social component which can help you compete with your friends to see who advances more.

Duolingo works for both Apple iOS and Android and you can also use it from your computer.

Currently, you can learn English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Russian, Esperanto, Polish and Turkish, and can also learn pronunciation. This makes Duolingo a great app to get a basic grasp of a new language quickly if you are travelling to a foreign country.

Duolingo is available for download for free for both iPhone and Android devices through the official stores.

GoEuro – Easily find the cheapest and fastest means to travel in Europe
Traveling Europe from end to end, either by train, bus, or plane, is quite possible but not always easy to figure out.

GoEuro is an app that helps you travel in Europe in the fastest and cheapest way, not only from the airport to the city and back, but also to cities and towns that can only be reached by trains or buses. This is what makes it different from other search engines and travel comparison apps.

When you want to use the GoEuro search engine, you have buses, trains, and flights in a single search, so you only have to enter your intended start and end locations. You can filter the results by your schedule, and order them by the fastest and cheapest options.

Not only will this app allow you to see the prices offered by different companies and different means of transport, but also book directly without leaving the app. This means you will no longer have to pay attention to the different websites of many transport companies, but in just a few clicks, you will have everything planned and booked.

GoEuro is available for download for free for both iPhone and Android devices through the official stores.

Fitting in with the locals in Poland, Hungary, and Romania

If you are looking for a city break with a difference, there are plenty of places to choose from in Europe.

From Warsaw, Kraków and Gdańsk in Poland, to Budapest in Hungary, and on to Bucharest in Romania, these countries are rich in history, architecture, and culture. If you get away from the beaten track, away from the cities, you will find some truly unique places, full of charm.

These countries that have something very important in common: a recent history with the Soviet Union, which has had a substantial impact on their cultures.

Although there are differences, and just like a French person would not like France to be thrown into the same bag as England as just being “Western European countries”, there are similarities too.

If we choose to go on holiday to these countries, many of us from Britain would be visiting for the first time, and it’s useful to know a little of what you might expect, and how to best fit in.

So for something a little bit different this month, we asked Agness and Cez from etramping.com, a popular travel blog, to give us their expert opinion on what you should – and shouldn’t – do when you are on holiday in these exciting places.

Not only have they travelled most of the region, but since they’re from Poland they have first-hand experience on the subject!

Here’s their advice for us:

Do: Enjoy the exchange rate, which is still reasonable
There’s no need to pinch your pennies while visiting this part of the continent. A thousand pounds will still get you a modestly lavish holiday here.

Remember that although Poland, Hungary, and Romania are all members of the European Union, they each have their own currency.

Do: Enjoy some unique sights
Are you passionate about folk tales and architecture? Take a trip to the Bran Castle (also known as “Dracula’s Castle”) in Transylvania, Romania.

Budapest in Hungary is also a nice place for some sight-seeing. Enjoy a ferry ride on the Danube and take some splendid photographs of the Parliament buildings along the way. A relaxing walk along the promenades will be just as satisfying though, if not more so.

Of course, you also have the opportunity to soak up the sun or have a swim. The Balaton Lake in Hungary is especially suited for that purpose. Otherwise, you can delight in a long walk on the Sopot Beach in Poland. If you’re in the area, you can’t miss the fantastic city of Gdansk.

Do: Benefit from the hospitality and cuisine
If you plan on visiting the countryside, you’re in for a treat. People there are fascinated by people from other countries, so you can definitely indulge in the traditional culture.

Prepare your taste buds for some traditional cuisine, as well. Cabbage rolls are a must-try, whether it’s “gołąbki” in Poland, “sarmale” in Romania, or “töltött káposzta” in Hungary. That last one is quite a mouthful! Goulash is also a favourite of the locals. Although it originates in Hungary, you can find it on the menu in almost all of Eastern – and even Central – Europe.

Don’t: Push into a queue, and don’t take offence
Our people are hospitable, but we are also very forward and honest. We will not hesitate to draw your attention if you push into a queue for whatever reason. (Of course, being British, you would never do this!). Having lived under the Communist regime, our population still remembers the dreary days of food lines.

One other thing to note when it comes to our honesty: don’t take offence to seemingly “rude” comments. 99% of the time they don’t come from a place of malice. If you have something on your face, or stuck between your teeth, we will tell you! So if somebody says this to you, thank them for their time, and move on!

And last, but not least…

Do: Act modestly
Many of our people appreciate kindness, modesty, and respectfulness above all else. Most will treat you in this manner, so you should do the same in return. Of course, there are some bad apples (as with anywhere else, for that matter). You can generally avoid those people if you don’t flaunt your wealth around.

One last thing: if you can, avoid political subjects – not because they’re taboo, but because you will never hear the end of it!

Pleasant holidays!

Stunning European destinations you can have to yourself this Easter

The sun may just be starting to emerge from the clouds in the UK, but in the sunny south of Europe, spring is well on its way. With the Easter holidays fast approaching, it’s time to start making those winter daydreams of lying on the beach, drink in hand, a reality.

We can imagine your holiday fantasy didn’t include hundreds of other sunbathers occupying the same stretch of beach as you, so we’ve put together a list of some more off-the-beaten track destinations for a truly serene holiday.

Whether you’re taking part in the traditional Holy Week celebrations of Sardinia’s eastern province, shopping in the markets of a sleepy Portuguese town, or enjoying an island to yourself in Corsica, these holiday destinations are sure to send you home truly relaxed and rejuvenated.

Ogliastra, Sardinia’s Undiscovered Gem
While the Italian island of Sardinia has long been known as a luxurious and beautiful holiday destination among Italians and foreigners alike, most visitors usually concentrate on the north of the island. However, Sardinia’s eastern province, Ogliastra, has all the striking scenery that makes the island so popular, but with less of the development and throngs of tourists.

Spend your days swimming in the province’s crystalline waters at the beaches of Cala Mariolu or Cala Goloritze. For the more adventurous, head deep into the caves and grottos of Grotta del Fico, only accessible by boat, or the nearby Grotte Su Marmuri. To get the most from your visit, ask one of the guides to lead you around the winding corridors of these caves while you learn about the millions of years of evolution that made them possible.

Ogliastra has plenty of options when it comes to accommodation, from five-star resorts averaging around £500 per night, to hotels for around £100 per night, to more modest B&Bs, and even a multitude of campsites around the province.

Easter is an especially good time to see all that Ogliastra has to offer, as the Holy Week celebrations fill the streets of the villages with processions, music, and locals in the unique traditional dress of their village. Weather on the island at this time of year is also ideal, with temperatures averaging at about 18C (65F) on Easter Sunday and gradually climbing up to 25C (77F) as we inch closer to summer.

Sand and Surf in the South of Portugal
Head to the far southwest of Portugal’s Algarve region and you’ll find yourself in the village of Odeceixe. With its homes seemingly tumbling down the hillside to the beaches below, and a quaint windmill perched high above the village, Odeceixe’s old-world charm seems a million miles away from the golf-course, resort-filled land of the rest of the Algarve region. Long hailed as a haven for surfers and sunbathers alike, Odeceixe has plenty to offer newcomers, especially around the Easter season.

The area has plenty of opportunities to try your hand at surfing, but if you’d rather watch the waves than ride them, the town is filled with charming cliff-top bars and cafes, like the local favourite, Cafe Dorita, where you can watch from afar. There are also ruins of Moorish castles to explore, and beautiful coastal paths to walk along. On Easter Weekend, there is also the Folar Fair, which celebrates all things sweet and delicious, with lots of cakes, pastries, and traditional crafts to see and sample.

You can expect temperatures at Easter to be around 18C (65F), sometimes reaching as high as 23C (73F). While there isn’t a huge selection of accommodation in the area, places are reasonably priced, with the top hotel costing around £100 per night.

Corsica: An island to yourself
The French Island of Corsica is popular in the high summer months of June and July, when boats fill its ports and holidaymakers squeeze into every room of its hotels. But for those on Easter breaks, or travelling in the late spring to early summer, Corsica has a calm lull to it: a distinct breath of fresh air before the onslaught of the summer tourists.

This is a time to see Corsica as it truly is, as the locals experience it every day. Base your island holiday in the medieval town of Sartène and bear witness to one of the most famous Easter processions on the island. On Good Friday, candles in all the windows of the town are lit as they illuminate the path up to the church in the town square.

The doors of the church open and a man in a hooded robe with heavy chains around his feet and carrying a heavy cross emerges. He carries the cross for over a mile, falling three times, just as Christ did. This ancient tradition is a sight to behold, and is not to be missed if you’re anywhere in southwest Corsica over Easter.

Sartène is also a wonderful starting point for seeing many of the island’s prehistoric sites and exploring the rest of beautiful southwest Corsica. The sun constantly shines at this time of year, and the weather plays its part in helping you enjoy your holiday, remaining at a pleasant 16C (61F) to 17C (63F) during the day.