Travel tips: Travel light, travel smart!

Today, many people travel light, taking only a cabin bag. With good planning, you can have all you need for a great holiday, without the hassle of a large unwieldy suitcase!

Advantages of only taking a cabin bag
The biggest advantage is cost: all the ‘no frills’ airlines charge for the privilege of taking a checked-in suitcase in the hold.

Speed is the other big bonus, with no need to wait for the luggage carousel. In fact, a small cabin suitcase on wheels will prove easier throughout your holiday as it is highly manoeuvrable and easy to lift in and out of coaches, minibuses, and taxis.

Essential information on cabin bags
A sturdy cabin suitcase with retractable wheels, or a comfortable travel bag or rucksack, is the key to success!

It is essential to check what size restrictions are imposed by the airline you are travelling with, because the maximum dimensions do vary between the airlines.

For example, the easyJet maximum size is 56 x 45x 25 cm, whereas Ryanair only allows a tiny bag of 35cm x 20cm x 20cm, with a larger size being forcibly checked into the hold (free of charge) if you take it to the gate.

Here’s an airline industry secret: airlines are massively struggling with cabin bags, because the aircraft simply don’t have enough overhead locker space! Many airlines are starting to either charge for cabin bags, restrict them to very small sizes, or forcing you to check them into the hold. An unwelcome trend!

It is important to check whether ladies are allowed to carry a handbag plus cabin bag, as it is a frequent sight at departure gates to see female travellers trying to squeeze their handbags into their already over-full cabin bags so that they can board the flight!

Tips for packing your clothes
Pack clothes that colour coordinate, can be worn in layers should the weather be cooler than expected, and can be ‘dressed up’ for the evening.

For ladies, packing plain tops that can be ‘dressed up’ with a pretty scarf or coloured necklace is the perfect solution for turning daywear into evening glamour!

A golden rule is to wear your heaviest/ bulkiest clothes when travelling; these can include a light jumper or sweatshirt plus, bulky shoes or trainers and a light jacket.

An extra layer could be beneficial if you have early morning or night flights, when it might be cold at your destination.

Clothing that doesn’t crumple easily is a bonus, but hanging any creased clothing on a hanger in a hot, steamy shower room is a great remedy!

If you are planning to visit churches, monasteries, or more formal places, it is a good idea to have one pair of long trousers and a top with sleeves.

You often only need to pack four or five outfits, as you can pack a small amount of hand-washing laundry liquid, often sold as “Travel wash”, confident that everything will dry quickly in warmer countries!

As for toiletries, you can often pack very light, and just buy things at a local shop when you arrive.

Technology for your travels
There’s no need to pack heavy reading material these days, as you can load your Kindle or smartphone with all your holiday reads and music. At the airport there are often free newspapers and magazines that can be enjoyed during the flight and handed in as you leave the aircraft.

Write a large reminder to pop on your packing pile to remember to pack your mobile charger – and a plug adaptor! The World Standards website can show you which type of plug adaptor you’ll need.

Sadly, many people damage their gadgets on holiday. This is sometimes covered by your travel insurance, but for extra peace of mind you might also want to consider a policy like our Premier Gadget Insurance.

Helsinki: A capital city with warmth

When asked about Finland, the first thing most of us will say is “It’s cold!” Although that may be true of the long winter months, it could not be more wrong about the people: they are smart, resourceful and friendly. (Although surprisingly there is no direct translation of the word “please” into Finnish.)

They invented the sauna to stay warm, and have an education system that tops the world, making communicating in English very easy.

So what does Helsinki have to offer travellers on a city break?

What to visit
Suomenlinna is a huge fortress that was built by the Swedes to protect the city in the 1700s. It is so huge, in fact, that it spreads across six islands! Since the Russian invasion in the 19th century it has been left largely untouched, making it a real trip back in time. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To visit all you need to do is hop on the ferry, which takes about 20 minutes.

Temppeliaukio Church, also known as the rock church, is one of the most iconic and most photographed buildings in Helsinki. The circular church is quite modern, opening in 1969, and has been carved out of the rock and topped with a copper dome. When approaching it looks more like a UFO than a church!

The Sibelius Monument is one of Helsinki’s must-visit locations. It is dedicated to the great Finnish composer Jan Sibelius. Not only is it one of the most breath-taking sculptures you will see, it is interactive too. By placing your head into one of 600 different pipes you can make your own music.

Helsinki Cathedral is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. It was built to honour Russian Tsar Nicholas I in the 19th century. The steps leading up to the cathedral are a popular meeting place for locals, and make a great place to take some holiday snaps.

The sauna is an integral part of Finnish society, and a must-do activity when in Finland. It is so popular that for a population of 5.5 million people there are estimated to be over 3 million saunas, one per household! This means that wherever you choose to stay you will more than likely have a sauna you can try. If not, don’t worry, there are some great public saunas around the city.

For other unusual entertainment, the Formula 1 Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen part-owns a karaoke bar in Helsinki called Wallis (probably named after the 1976 F1 world champion James Simon Wallis Hunt).

Eating Out 
Eating out in Helsinki is more expensive than in the UK. On average you will pay around £15-25 for a main course. However, there are some great restaurants to choose from.

To try traditional Finnish food made with fresh in-season local produce, head to Grön. If you want to treat yourself, Helsinki has four Michelin-starred restaurants to choose from.

When to visit
The best time to visit Helsinki is during June and July, when you can enjoy the near 24 hours of sunlight, with temperature highs of around 20C (68F).

Want to know more? Visit My Helsinki and see what you can find!

The delights of Porto: foodie culture and wine cruises

Fabio Mendes has travelled extensively in Porto, so we asked him to give us his very best tips and advice for a great holiday.

There are plenty of reasons why Porto won the award for Best European Destination at the World Travel Awards in 2017. If you enjoy history, excellent food and wonderful views, you will agree that Porto deserves this title.

Porto is the largest city in Northern Portugal, and gives its name to the famous dessert wine, port. The city combines its historical roots and modern aspirations, in a setting which at first seems similar to its famous southern sister Lisbon, but feels quite different.

Placed at the margin of the river Douro, Porto represents an entire region proud of its uniqueness.

When to go, and how to reach Porto
Due to its more northerly location, Porto is spared from the typical Portuguese heat. Average temperatures between 20C (68F) in May and 25C (77F) in August, and almost no rain at all, offer perfect conditions to explore the city.

The airport of Porto is served by easyJet, Ryanair, British Airways, and TAP Portugal. Upon arrival, you will easily find public transport to the city centre right in front of the terminal.

To move around the city, you can buy a Porto Card day pass for six Euros, with discounts if you want a card lasting more than one day. This price includes the rechargeable card. With this pass, you can even use the public elevators, which bring you from the lower to the higher parts of the city. Make sure you always activate the ticket upon entering all transport and that a green light flashes afterwards.

What to see and do
If you arrive by train, the São Bento Station is a good first sight to behold. The impressive hall, completely covered with the famous Portuguese blue tiles, gives you an incredible first impression!

Walk down the narrow streets towards the river. You will reach Ribeira, the part of the city right by the river and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can stroll along the promenade until you reach the Dom Luis I. Bridge, designed by Gustav Eiffel, or just enjoy the scenery sitting at a café and drinking port.

If you are up for learning more about the Age of Discoveries, head to the Casa do Infante. Nowadays, this antique building houses a museum about the history of the city, but it is also the birthplace of Henry the Navigator, the famous mastermind behind the Portuguese discoveries of the New World. I can also recommend visiting the Palacio da Bolsa, a building that took 30 years to finish; its main purpose was to impress visitors to the city!

What to eat
Not many cities can claim to have such a vast offering of delicious restaurants as Porto. Typical Portuguese dishes are quite simple, and that means that plenty of places will offer you good food. In Porto, it’s actually difficult to stumble upon a restaurant where you will be unhappy.

The most famous dish in Porto is the Francesinha. It’s a sandwich made of different types of meats and sausage, with a fried egg and molten cheese on top. The secret is the sauce, and every single restaurant is proud to announce that their sauce is the best in town. The servings are usually so generous that many people can’t even eat it all.

Another creation of Porto is Tripas, which is a tripe stew that has been eaten in the city since the 15th century. Probably not the tastiest option, but surely one to tell your friends at home about!

Seafood and fish dishes are highly recommended too. Restaurants easily source fresh and high-quality fish at the local markets. You can try the local octopus salad almost everywhere, and it’s perfect as a side dish! Usually, lunch for two, with a bottle of house wine included, should not cost you more than 35 to 45 Euros.

The Port Wine Experience
It’s impossible to escape the sweet wine in Porto. Made world-famous by the British, you can have a small glass everywhere in the city for less than the equivalent of £2. To get the full experience, cross the river to the south side and visit the Port Wine cellars. Most of them offer guided tours, including a Port Wine tasting at the end. Graham, Sandeman’s and Cockburn are just some of the most famous names where you can learn all about the wine.

Another highlight is the river cruise offered by several operators. You will sail upstream, out of the city and into the heart of Northern Portugal to see where the grapes used for Port grow. It’s possible to visit the actual vineyards, sometimes with the guide being the owner himself.

In June, the Douro Fair is an excellent opportunity to taste the specialities of the region, not only the wines.

For the return to Porto, use the historical train for a memorable trip back in time!

Apps to find Europe’s best landmarks and natural wonders

Is there anything more exciting than discovering something unknown and special when travelling? Perhaps a quality restaurant popular with locals, a culturally significant monument tucked away on a back street, or a natural wonder, those hidden gems can make a trip extra special.

But how do you find the best places to see? Although Google Maps will show you monuments, eateries, and attractions, you have to find them yourself. Instead of that, you can remove the burden and download these dedicated apps that will help you find hidden treasures both in the city and in the country.

GuidePal city guides
Platforms: Android/iOS, Cost: Free

GuidePal is an extremely useful application that puts important locations at your fingertips. The Android and iOS service provides detailed city guides that you can also use offline: perfect for when you’re in an area without data coverage, or you don’t want to use your often-expensive mobile data. GuidePal features 57 cities, including 26 in Europe, so you can pull up your app on your next visit to Athens, Rome, Paris, and many more.

While users can see city locations on other mapping services, GuidePal has some tricks up its sleeve. The city guides aim to be more informative and dynamic than a normal mapping service. Guides are curated from local sources, including professional journalists, tourist experts, and members of the public.

The result is an app that delivers authentic guides to major cities. Each location is carefully researched and presented in clear detail, helping you find great things to do. The information is complemented by images showing you exactly what you can expect to see at each destination.

One of the best features of GuidePal is its ability to show you locations that might not be a first port of call for tourists. The app is excellent at finding hidden gems, whether it’s a neighbourhood coffee shop or a local art gallery.

As you would expect, the app also delivers concise information on world-famous locations.

Download GuidePal for iOS
Download GuidePal for Android

ViewRanger
Platforms: Android/iOS, Cost: Free (premium version available £14.99)

Europe’s most visited and beautiful cities are located on the doorstep of some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world. After exploring city treats with GuidePal, why not head out to the countryside with ViewRanger as your guide?

ViewRanger is an application that supplies mapping for topographic maps, trails, and hiking routes. Perfect for the adventurous spirit, the app supports offline mapping through GPS and offers detailed information about nearest locations.

Depending on your level of activity, you can customize ViewRanger to meet your needs. Whether you want a leisurely trail through a forest or to find the nearest peak to ascend, ViewRanger is the app to get you there.

An exciting feature of this app is its integration with a smartphone camera. When in ViewRanger, you can hold your camera up to the scenery, such as mountains, rivers, or other landscapes. The app scans the area and interactively names locations seen on the camera! This feature is called Skyline, and uses augmented reality to name natural wonders you capture on your device.

Download ViewRanger for iOS
Download ViewRanger for Android 

In summary
Whether in the city or exploring the countryside, GuidePal and ViewRanger provide a personalised experience. Both apps give you the tools to find the places you want to see, and maybe even discover some hidden gems.

Tallinn: the medieval marvel of the north

Mark Taylor is a British expat who now lives in Estonia. We asked him to give us an insider’s view of the beautiful city of Tallinn.

There is a reason that the entire old town of Tallinn is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site: it’s jam-packed full of history that has been impeccably preserved. Being the son of an archaeologist, it’s probably one of the main reasons I made Tallinn my home eight years ago.

It’s hard to compress so much history into so few words, while also giving you a guide to the best places to see. So here’s a little taster of some of the most important places in the city’s history.

Toompea
Wherever you stand in Tallinn you will be able to see Toompea. The hill lies at the heart of the city and can be seen for miles around. It’s why the Danes built a castle there in 1219 and why the Houses of Parliament are there today.

However, the origins of the hill date back much further than even the bronze-age artefacts that have been found there. Estonian folklore tells that the hill was created by the mythical Linda piling rocks on to the grave of her husband Kalev.

St Olaf’s Church
With the Danes and the subsequent arrival of the Teutonic knights, Christianity arrived in the city and hence St Olaf’s church was built. As the city grew in prosperity and power from its membership of the Hanseatic League, so did the church.

Between 1549 and 1625 it is believed to have been the tallest building in the world at around 124m (407 feet). It has the best views of the city too, and at only around £2 to go up, it’s somewhere I always take visitors.

Kadriorg Park
After some 500 years of Danish, Swedish and Teutonic Knight rule, 1710 saw the arrival of the Russian empire under Peter the Great. To mark his victory he built a grand palace with grounds. Those grounds now make up the beautifully kept Kadriorg park, which is just a ten minute tram ride from the city centre.

As well as the palace you will also find the national art museum KUMU and the residence of the President of Estonia in the park.

Lauluvaljak
There is a reason Estonians are referred to as the singing nation, and it’s not their successes at Eurovision! Lauluvaljak, which simply translates into English as “Song grounds” played host in 1988 to the singing revolution, where more than 300,000 people gathered to sing patriotic songs.

The unique thing about the song grounds is the stage, which can hold up to 15,000 singers, a Guinness World Record.

When to visit
When having friends and family come to stay, I almost always recommend they visit in June, July or August (unless they like snow!). This is when the weather is at its most settled and pleasant, with average daily temperatures around 20C (68F).

It very rarely goes above 30C (86F) too, meaning that it never gets unbearably hot. The long summer nights are another great plus, including one month around the summer equinox when it never truly gets dark.

It’s Estonia’s 100th birthday
This year Estonia will celebrate 100 years since it first gained independence from the rule of various other countries. Therefore there are many events taking place in Tallinn throughout the year to mark the centenary.

[Editor’s note: from my own visit to Tallinn, the Museum of Occupations, detailing Soviet and Nazi influence, including huge communist statues, was a very powerful exhibition, not to be missed.]

To learn more about events happening in Tallinn when you visit, see the Visit Tallinnwebsite.

Malta: the perfect holiday for beaches, culture, and history

Malta is one of the most pleasant places in the Mediterranean to spend a holiday. It will suit you if you’re looking for beautiful beaches, plenty of things to do, an excellent climate, and affordability.

Malta is packed with interesting attractions, including medieval castles, incredible 17th-century architecture, and several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It has over 7,000 years of interesting culture and history to explore, spanning from the Neolithic period, to the Crusades, to the island’s role in World War Two.

You will also find miles of beaches, where you can relax and frolic in the warm waters of the Med.

Things to know about Malta
Malta is just south of Italy, so the climate is great for a beach holiday. During the summer months you can enjoy up to 12 hours of beautiful sunshine, with temperatures that range from 24-28C (75-83F) during May and June, with peak summer months at a consistent 31C (88F).

When you arrive you will be delighted with the easy access to almost all of the main island’s attractions and beaches. With Malta covering only 122 square miles, you can travel from one end of the main island to the other in about an hour. You can decide to rent a car, but other forms of transport are readily available, such as a public bus system which will take you directly to several of the fabulous attractions around the island.

You won’t have to worry about a language barrier. The island has two official languages, Maltese and English. This will make your holiday more enjoyable when conversing with the local residents.

There is no need to worry about currency either. Malta is part of the European Union and uses the Euro. You will find plenty of places offering competitive exchange rates.

Where to stay in Malta
Most people on holiday in Malta stay in or near Valletta, the capital city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the 1560s. The neighbourhoods around Valletta offer holidaymakers a wide assortment of places to stay. Prices can range from £56 to over £200 per night depending on your preference for budget versus luxury.

Areas such as Paceville are lively, with plenty of dining, entertainment and shopping options within walking distance. Other neighbourhoods of interest include Sliema and Gzira which overlooks the Grand Harbour.

If you prefer to stay outside the city, in a more relaxed atmosphere, the Corinthia Palace Hotel, located within a renovated 19th-century Neo-classical mansion, is a fantastic choice. The hotel is situated a 15-minute drive from Valletta and many of the beaches, as well as being adjacent to the lush San Anton Gardens.

Beautiful Maltese beaches
The variety of beaches you can experience in Malta will provide you with plenty of opportunities for relaxation and swimming, along with numerous watersports activities. Most of the beaches are within around 20 miles of Valletta, and you can easily access them by car or public transport.

The Mellieha Beach, also known as Ghadira Bay, is an ideal choice if you want multiple on-site amenities. Beachgoers at Golden Bay can also enjoy a wide array of services as well as excellent sunsets. Pretty Bay is a short distance from Valletta with a superb promenade.

Other attractions in Malta
You can take an interesting tour of Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site loaded with baroque and medieval architecture. When you visit the Upper Barrakka Gardens you will have panoramic views of the Grand Harbour, and you can learn about the Knights of St. John as well as the 1565 Great Siege of Malta.

Other magnificent sites include St. John’s Co-Cathedral, the ancient capital city of Mdina, and you can take a ferry north to the neighbouring island of Gozo. You can relive the perils of the bombing raids during World War Two within several renovated bomb shelters, and there are unique museums that cover World War Two.

Overall, travellers who have holidayed on Malta come away feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Where else can you go to the beach, then walk through a Neolithic temple and a medieval city all in one day?

Could Malta be your perfect holiday getaway?

Travel apps: Cheap rooms with Roomer and good food reviews with Zomato

Roomer: Buy a cheap room, or sell your hotel room!
Picture the scene: you’ve booked a hotel, and then something comes up and you can’t travel on the day you expected to. For most people, this would likely mean paying at least a cancellation fee, or at worst losing your whole deposit on a nonrefundable booking.

Issues like that can often dissuade people from making plans too far in advance, despite the cost savings of booking in advance.

We have good news for you if this is one of the conundrums you have faced or are concerned about.

Roomer is a travel app that gives you the opportunity to sell your booking, or buy someone else’s booking, at close to half the cost.

There are two important caveats on hotel reservation sales: you can only sell your reservation if it is non-refundable and prepaid.

If you’re looking to purchase a hotel reservation at a lower cost than a standard booking you will be happy to learn that Roomer recommends sellers mark their selling price at least 50 percent lower than the original price.

Essentially Roomer creates a win, win, win, situation, providing the buyer with a great price, the seller with at least half their funds back, and the hotel with a filled room. Just be forewarned that Roomer verifies and approves each posting, which can take a little over 24 hours.

Download Roomer for iPhone
Download Roomer for Android

Food reviews with Zomato
Travelling can be extremely expensive, and one of the biggest expenses is eating costs, if you’re not a street-foodie of course.

Have you noticed that more and more restaurants are opting to put their menus on their websites without pricing? This is frustrating when you’re trying to make plans in a new city.

Of course, when you’re in a new city and checking out new authentic places, it’s not just about the pricing, it’s about food taste and the ambience of the place. And we all know that the photographs on a restaurant website are shot by professionals, edited to perfection, and are about as believable as those shots belonging to a fast-food joint.

Now, thanks to a handy app called Zomato, you can check out menus, prices, diner reviews and photos shot by diners too. You can also see actual photographs of the menu that diners have taken and posted to Zomato.

You can read the reviews and get an overall idea of the positives and negatives of dining in a place, as well as recommendations on what to eat.

The app will also give you suggestions for restaurants that are similar to the one you’re looking at.

Essentially Zomato is like your personal restaurant reviewer, so if you’re looking for an alternative point of view to that provided by TripAdvisor, take a look at Zomato.

Download Zomato for iPhone
Download Zomato for Android

Cruises: Making the most of a day in port

A day in port makes for a pleasant change to the regular shipboard routine. Crowds of passengers disembark and pile into coaches for excursions to some or other top attraction.

But with only five or six hours available, how do you squeeze in as much as possible without things getting hectic?

Researching and planning the day
A bit of up-front planning can make all the difference to your holiday.

You could form a small group of two or three other people, as you are far less likely to be bothered by street vendors, and you have people with you whom you know.

In this case, an itinerary becomes essential, so you more or less agree on what you want to do. Some research beforehand is paramount. You can even start planning your days in port while you are still at home, before you set off for your cruise.

Take a look at the ship’s library, since they make a point of stocking resources relating to their current schedule. Published travel guides are often well-researched. By contrast, articles on the internet can be excellent, but many simply rehash what others have said.

A good place to look online is the town’s official website, since it is run by people who live in the place and know it well. They cannot afford a bad report by a visitor. Their motivation is to create passionate enthusiasts for their town who praise them on social media. They also do not have a direct financial interest in directing visitors to a particular restaurant or attraction.

Choosing a few things to see and do
Since you cannot do more than scratch the surface in a single day, it makes no sense to try to do everything. Agree a basic plan with the group before starting research. Are you going to have breakfast on board first, or head out early to somewhere authentic where the locals dine?

You will probably want a top-up midday snack, so make sure to be seated and eating before the lunchtime crowds arrive. If you are having dinner back on board in the evening, you might choose just to get lunch quickly, unless there is a particular restaurant you wish to visit. If you can get a big breakfast on board, you might not need lunch at all, which will give you more time to look around.

This leaves morning and afternoon spaces of a few hours each to do something different. Consider staying away from hackneyed destinations like famous palaces and churches unless you like crowds!

Your stay in port comes alive on the day
A day in port comes alive when you visit lesser-known points of interest that tour buses avoid. This could be because parking is difficult, or the driver does not get a kickback. They may even be so peaceful you get the feeling you discovered them, as you potter through soaking up the local atmosphere.

If you plan in advance, your day will flow smoothly because you have time to relax. You may not even see your fellow passengers for a couple of hours; spare a thought for them in buses chasing tight deadlines! You will have a different story to share over supper.

Malaga city: more than meets the eye

Malaga is a Spanish city underestimated by many travellers, who just see it as the place their plane lands before they head for the coast! However, with history, culture, real Spain, great shops and wonderful food, it is growing in popularity.

We asked Tracy Morgan, who lived in Malaga and knows it well, to give us an insider’s view.

Malaga city offers a wealth of culture, nightlife, sightseeing, and beaches. There is something for everyone in this trendy and vibrant city. Malaga Airport is very well located, just a short train or bus ride away, but offers everything you would expect from an international airport, including car hire.

Climate
During winter, Malaga reaches a pleasant 17C (63F). Springtime temperatures rise to 21C (70F) and the summer months are on average as high as 30C (86F).

City sightseeing
Architecture is a huge part of Malaga’s history. Visit the cathedral, Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica de la Encarnación, known as “La Manquita” (“the one-armed lady”.) The cathedral took 250 years to build, and is one of the highlights of Malaga.

The Alcazaba is a Moorish fortress, built in the 11th century. City tourist buses offer reasonably-priced 24-hour tours, which take you to the top of the Alcazaba, where you can use the hop on/off facility to relax and take in the 360-degree views across the city.

Remains of an ancient Roman theatre lie below the Alcazaba, dating back to 1st century BC. Unearthed by construction workers in 1951, it took many years of restoration to fully reveal this stunning piece of history, and it is well worth a visit at night when it gets lit up majestically.

Beaches
Malaga has over 14 kilometres (8.5 miles) of stunning Mediterranean coastline. Stroll along the promenade to discover inviting “chiringuitos” (beach bars) offering fresh, local cuisine. Many rent out sun loungers and umbrellas, a perfect way to spend the day. Malaga beaches are very clean and have great facilities including showers, toilets and play areas for children.

Shopping
Walk around the vibrant and colourful Calle Larios, a broad pedestrian avenue with street entertainment including mime artists and flamenco. Take a detour and explore the narrow side streets to find artisan boutique shops and bars.

When you have shopped enough, mingle amongst the trendy Malagueños, and enjoy a cold drink or a tapa.

The Malaga Marina has a great deal to offer, with green parks and the Muelle Uno shopping complex with its trendy shops and restaurants.

Nightlife
When it comes to nightlife, Malaga is a vibrant city all year round, and in the summer months most people don’t venture outdoors until after dark. This is when Malaga comes into its own, when the streets and squares are filled with families having fun.

Malaga has many restaurants, bars and bodegas (wine bars), from smart and modern lounges, flamenco bars, to the traditional “spit and sawdust” bars.

The must-visit places are the amazing Antigua Casa de Guardia, the oldest bar in Malaga, and El Pimpi where you can mingle amongst the ancient barrels, sip the famous sweet fortified wine, and gaze upon the interesting old photographs that adorn the walls.

Culture
Apart from the very popular Picasso Museum and birthplace, there are over 100 art galleries and museums in the city, with something on offer to satisfy everyone.

Malaga is a truly wonderful city – you should give it a try!

Disneyland Paris – not just for kids!

Much closer to home than its big brother in the USA, much easier to reach, and so much more affordable too, Disneyland Paris really isn’t just for the kids.

While it’s true that Disneyland is a magical haven filled with fun and wonder for young children, there is also plenty to keep an adult couple – or a group of adults – entertained too.

Of course, if you have children or grandchildren to take along with you, you’ll get so much pleasure from seeing their little faces light up at the sight of all their favourite Disney characters coming to life through the various rides, shows and other attractions the park has to offer, but even if you are travelling without children, your own inner-child is sure to find plenty to captivate it!

Two parks: which will you choose?
The Disneyland Paris site is made up of a selection of themed hotels, the Disney Village which hosts numerous shops and restaurants, and two theme parks: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park.

If you are travelling without children, and certainly if you are limited to only a day or two, Walt Disney Studios Park will be the park for you to make your way to first.

Disneyland Park caters very much for young children – think rides for toddlers and over-excited Disney characters appearing for photo opportunities around every corner! However, Walt Disney Studios Park is much more suitable for adults, with its theme focused on the history of “the movies”, with adult-friendly shows and more intense rides (for those that are brave enough!).

If you’re interested in the history of Disney and how it all began, including how Walt made his movies and revolutionised the animated film industry, the Art of Disney Animation attraction within the Toon Studio area of the park should be your first stop. Here you’ll find lots of interesting information, presented in a genuinely fun-for-all-ages format of cinema presentations, lively demonstrations and fascinating exhibits. There is even the opportunity for some interactive experiences if you fancy getting involved yourself!

Attractions
Petrol heads (or anyone who appreciates a good stunt show, and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) should head on over to the Backlot area of the park to see the Moteurs…Action! Stunt Show Spectacular as this is definitely one not to be missed by the adults! A thrilling 45-minute long live show of fast cars swerving, sliding, and even jumping through fire as they race around in hot pursuit of each other, this is a real jaw-dropping show which never fails to impress even its repeat visitors.

As for rides, these include to name a few, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, themed around a spooky abandoned hotel; the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith for those that like a bit of rock music while they are traveling at 62mph along a track of hairpin turns, steep drops and loops (not for the faint-hearted!); or the slightly more subdued, although still considered a thrill ride by most, Crush’s Coaster where you ride on the back of the friendly turtle from the Finding Nemo movie.

Avoid queues with FASTPASS
All three of the above rides are eligible for FASTPASS. This is a free service offered by Disney where you can get a ticket from a booth outside the ride entrance of certain attractions which regularly have long queues.

This gives you a time to return and enter through the special FASTPASS entrance and either walk straight on the ride, or only queue for a few minutes, depending on how busy the park is when you visit.

Unbelievably, many visitors to Disneyland don’t take advantage of this time-saving FASTPASS service, either because they simply do not know about it, or because they mistakenly believe you have to pay for it. That’s a shame, because guests who are not in-the-know waste valuable time queueing for rides when they don’t need to.

The park is open year-round and if you are travelling without children you have the luxury of being able to visit outside of school holidays, which will help you avoid the worst of the crowds.

Where to eat
And of course, no discussion of Disneyland Paris would be complete without mention of the mouth-watering dining options available throughout the resort. Within Walt Disney Studios Park itself you will find “Bistrot Chez Rémy” an excellent Parisian bistro serving mouth-watering French cuisine in the themed surroundings of Disney’s “Ratatouille” movie.

Over in the Disney Village, situated conveniently between the two theme parks and the various resort hotels, you will find an abundance of tempting dining options. These include The Steakhouse where you can tuck into steak and chips in a Chicago themed setting; Annette’s Diner a 1950’s themed eatery where your servers whizz around on roller-skates; or for something extra special there is Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, where you can watch a live action-packed Cowboys and Indians show whilst chowing down on some hearty Texan fare!

Reservations can be made up to two months in advance, and money-saving Disney Meal Plan pre-paid vouchers are also available for purchase.

How to get there
The nearest airport is Paris Charles De Gaulle, which is approximately 45 minutes away and is well-served by easyJet. Disneyland Paris offers a complimentary shuttle servicefrom the airport to most of its hotels, of which it boasts several, suiting most budgets.

There are also various park entrance ticket options depending on which parks you wish to visit and for how long you wish to stay, but prices start from £38 for an adult and £32 for a child. You can start planning your trip by looking at Disney’s own Disneyland Paris offers.

Bon Voyage!