The best travel planning apps for your next holiday

Travel planning apps can make travelling a lot easier by creating itineraries and keeping information in one place. Use one, and you won’t be rummaging through hundreds of bits of paper every time you need your flight details or passport number.

These days, even the most disorganised travellers use travel apps, so which one should you go for?

TripIt
TripIt was one of the first travel planning apps, and it’s one of the simplest to use. The app combines information from your booking and confirmation emails into one itinerary. You can share this itinerary with other people and access it online or offline. The app also encrypts and stores your passport details and vital information. TripIt has around 13 million users and is one of the most popular travel apps, but it costs $49 per year to access most of the facilities.
https://www.tripit.com – Download for iPhone – Download for Android
Basic – free / Premium – $49

TripCase
Like TripIt, the main feature of TripCase is an itinerary tool, collating the information you forward from your email account. However, unlike TripIt, TripCase is free. TripCase can also access real-time flight alerts and update your itinerary with the latest times and changes. It’s easy to use and many people love it: in 2016, Forbes named it their best travel app.
http://travel.tripcase.com – Download for iPhone – Download for Android
Free

Google Trips
Like TripIt and TripCase, Google Trips creates an itinerary from information sent from your Gmail account, but it also does a lot more. Google Trips also functions as a guidebook, giving you information on things to do each day at your location. With this information, you can create an itinerary for each day by placing markers on the Google Map. Google Trips then tells you the travel times to each location. Ideal for city breaks, all your information can be accessed offline if there’s no wi-fi where you are.
https://get.google.com/trips – Download for iPhone – Download for Android
Free

Kayak
Kayak is a travel app that does everything. Not only can you record your itinerary, but you can also book your trip via the app as well. Kayak searches for the best hotels, flights and car rentals for you. You can then store all the information in their trips facility. A multi-award-winning app, Kayak has all kinds of other features too, including flight status alerts and online travel guides.
https://www.kayak.co.uk  – Download for iPhone – Download for Android
Free

Halkidiki: The best-kept secret in Greece

We asked Greek writer Emmanouil Sakalidis for his tips on where to go in Greece. Here are his top tips:

Halkidiki is a region located in northern Greece, that brings together all the best parts of a Greek island: lovely beaches, luxury resorts, interesting cultural heritage, and classic Greek culinary delights.

Things to know about Halkidiki
Halkidiki is a popular destination made up of three large peninsulas. The peninsula of Kassandra, mostly famous for its beaches and the local taverns and restaurants; the peninsula of Sithonia, the ideal place for travellers who want to try boating, hiking or diving; and the Mount Athos peninsula, with its many monasteries – only men are permitted to visit this territory.

Halkidiki has 340 miles of coastline and contains 72 beaches with the blue flag certification.

The climate of Halkidiki is ideal for beach holidays. During summer, the temperature ranges between 25C to 35C (77F to 95F), while in May, the weather is even more pleasant, with temperatures no more than 25C (77F).

Things to do in Halkidiki
As you’ll find in every part of Greece, Halkidiki has many historical and archaeological sites. The best places to visit here are the world-famous cave of Petralona, the folklore museums of Arnea, Athitos and Nikiti, the Krouna tower and the tower of Prosforios.

If you are a nature lover, Halkidiki is the perfect place for you. With more than a thousand beaches with crystal-clear water, this region offers you plenty of activities like swimming, sunbathing, kayaking, diving or boating. There are also 17 cycling routes and 20 hiking routes to help you explore the natural environment.

If you love ancient Greek history, there is a hiking root that explores Stagira, the birthplace of Aristotle, the greatest Greek philosopher.

The Festival of Kassandra is a well-known festival that takes place on the peninsula of Kassandra, between July and late August. During this time, you can enjoy theatrical shows, folk music and dance, Greek food, and many traditional events. It has hosted world-famous artists such as Ray Charles and BB King, as well as many Greek musicians.

A day trip to Mount Athos is another extraordinary activity that you can do in Halkidiki. Mount Athos, known as the ‘Holy Mountain’, is the capital of Greek-Orthodox Christianity and consists of 20 monasteries, hundreds of hermitages, and more that 2,000 monks! Following the protocol of the state, women are not permitted into this territory. Although women are not permitted to enter Mount Athos, all visitors can admire the magnificent landscapes and the breath-taking monasteries from the small traditional boats that depart daily from Ouranoupoli, a small village that is the last settlement before Mount Athos.

What to eat in Halkidiki
Halkidiki offers you an amazing Mediterranean food experience. As it has plenty of high-quality ingredients, the culinary tradition of this region is unique. Honey, wine, sweets, pastries, herbs, table olives, extra virgin olive oil, and many different kinds of cheeses are only some of the local and pure ingredients that you can taste. You can also enjoy the fresh fish and seafood at the local restaurants and taverns.

Eating out in Halkidiki is cheaper than in the UK. On average, you will pay around £12-15 per person for a full meal.

Where to stay
The Greeks are very hospitable people, and the roots of Greek hospitality are even older than Parthenon. Halkidiki offers a big selection of affordable apartments, luxury resorts, cosy hotels or villas.

How to get to Halkidiki
The closest airport to Halkidiki is Thessaloniki. You can get direct flights on easyJet, Ryanair, or British Airways. From there, you can rent a car, take a taxi or a bus, and you can reach the destination of your choice in less than half an hour.

So come to Halkidiki this year: a voyage of true discovery awaits!

Budapest: The Paris of the East, and why it deserves the title

Budapest is often dubbed the Paris of the East, mainly for its spectacular architecture and its rich culture that puts good music, food, and wine at its centre. Fortunately, it’s far cheaper to visit than Paris, making it a popular destination for travellers.

Budapest is made from the joining of two former cities, the hilly Buda on the west side of the Danube, and the much flatter Pest on the east.

Sightseeing
The city is known for its architectural landmarks. There are a lot, so it’s good to plan ahead if you want to fit everything in!

The Hungarian Parliament Building is a must-see. The building is breathtaking, and you can’t help but feel insignificant standing next to it. Tours in English, to view the inside, take place daily and cost around £11.

Other popular attractions well worth checking out are the Citadel and its Liberty Monument, Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle, Heroes Square, and St. Stephen’s Basilica. And yes, it’s absolutely worthwhile to head up the tower of the Basilica. That gorgeous 360 degree view of the city is priceless!

Activities
If you are looking for a bit more structure and guidance during your trip, you will see many of these sights on a Budapest Free Walking Tour. It’s in English and the friendly tour guides are walking information stands who will give you some insights into Hungarian history, tips for travelling in Budapest, and even a mini language course with all the basics like ‘Cheers’, ‘Thanks’, and ‘Hello’.

If you’re not up for much walking, try the sightseeing cruise up the Danube. The best time to go on a cruise is after dark, when the whole promenade, including the Parliament Building, is lit up.

It would be a crime to leave Budapest without having tried out one of its famous thermal baths. The most popular baths are Széchenyi Baths and the Géllert Baths, which are a great spot for relaxing.

Food
After all that exploring you’re guaranteed to have worked up an appetite, so make sure to fill up on some of Budapest’s best cuisine. You’ll find everything here, from traditional Hungarian dishes to food from all over the world. If you’re craving something sweet, you’ll find pretty cafes, doughnut shops, and ice cream parlours around every corner.

Make sure to try the Lángos and Goulash at the Central Market Hall. You should also try the Chimney Cake and rose-shaped ice cream at Gelarto Rosa.

Editor’s note: A highlight from my own visit to Budapest was Central Cafe, a beautiful Art Nouveau traditional and historic cafe where writers used to hang out. There’s a large array of tempting cakes in a large glass stand; order the classic Hungarian Esterházy torte!

The Jewish Quarter is a great spot for restaurants that serve great food and offer great service at an affordable price. Many of them, for example, Mazel Tov, also have outdoor gardens so you can enjoy the sunshine while gobbling down your food.

Ruin bars – a unique experience
For a fun and bizarre experience that you won’t get anywhere else, visit some of Budapest’s famous ruin bars. These popular bars are unique to Budapest, and are built into abandoned and dilapidated buildings! The furniture and decor are usually eclectic and crazy. Do a bit of internet research to find a ruin bar near you.

Beyond the city break
Taking a quick break from the city is easy in Budapest. You can explore the hills that surround the capital, as they are only a stones-throw away. The Elizabeth Lookout Tower is a popular destination with a stunning panoramic view of all of Budapest and its surroundings.

Craving a beach day? Fear not. The stunning Lupa Beach is only an hour from Budapest, and with its white sand beaches, palm trees and beach bars you get the best of both worlds.

The best time to visit is always now!
Budapest has something for everyone so what better time to pack up your bags and decide for yourself whether it truly is the Paris of the East, than now?

With summer fast approaching, the average temperature will be between 21C (70F) and 27C (80F). There are also plenty of great hotels and Airbnb’s on offer in the city, suitable for whatever your budget may be.