Tips to smoothly navigate the airport

The airport: a long strip of asphalt connected to a huge metal shed full of armed police officers, screaming children, and overzealous security staff! A place where nobody will bat an eyelid if you have a pint with your breakfast fry up!

It’s the place where your holiday begins, so why not make the most of it?

Airport parking
Book your airport car parking as early in advance as you can. Like flights, it tends to get more expensive as it gets closer to your departure date.

If you are being dropped off, many airports now charge extortionate amounts to be dropped off directly outside the terminal building. However, many airports give half an hour, or an hour, of free parking in the official medium stay or long stay car park, then you can get a free bus to the terminal.

Pack well
A happy airport experience begins at home. There are plenty of online tutorials for how to pack a suitcase, but some forward planning at this stage will make your airport experience that much smoother.

Tuck your ticket into the photo page your passport (to act as a bookmark) and don’t pack them in your main luggage! You will be showing your boarding pass and passport several times before you board the plane, so keep them to hand in a trouser pocket, coat pocket, or a side pocket of your carry-on bag.

If you have a mobile boarding pass on your phone, then it’s still worth taking a printed boarding pass too, as a back-up, in case your phone runs out of battery or your boarding pass app crashes!

The queue for security can sometimes be long, or you might be pulled aside for a more detailed check, so go through security as soon as you can. Don’t hang about drinking in the bars: go through security first, and then you can have a drink and relax.

Stock up on food – avoid the coffee
Food can be expensive onboard the plane, so if you haven’t brought anything from home, stock up on a few snacks for the flight while you’re at the airport. A flapjack from somewhere like Pret a Manger is good, because it fills you up for a long time.

Coffee might be something to avoid at the airport. It acts as a diuretic, making you want to go to the toilet, which can be impractical. It can also sometimes upset the stomach, which isn’t what you want either! Finally, coffee can dehydrate you, and the air inside a plane cabin is dry enough already.

Walking distances 
As demand grows for flights, UK airports are constantly getting bigger, and adding more gates to park the planes. This means that there can often be a considerable distance to walk to get to your plane, sometimes taking 15 or 20 minutes (especially if you are on a low-cost airline).

Most airports in the UK have maps available online with distances marked between entrance points, security checkpoint and departure gates. Use this to both map out your route and to leave enough time to get around without rushing.

If you’re flying with easyJet, their mobile app can sometimes give you the walking distance to the gate, depending on which airport you are flying from. Other airlines are also starting to introduce this service.

Leave enough time! 
Aim to arrive at the airport 2 hours before take off for European flights, and 3 hours before long-haul.

This will give you ample time to drop off luggage and pass through security, so that you can be relaxing with your drink when your gate is announced, not frantically rushing to put your shoes and belt back on in the security area!

A day or two before your flight, check for pre-planned roadworks or railway engineering, and check the weather reports in case there is anything that could delay your journey.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Airport and airline staff are there to help you: from our own experience, we know that airline and airport staff go above and beyond every single day.

If you need help to get through the airport, just ask. Most airports and airlines will ask that you request assistance at least 48 hours in advance if possible. They can help transport baggage (or even you!) across terminals and through security. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or worried about, it’s a practical service to help you, the customer, to have a smooth transit through the airport.

Have some perspective 
Finally, and something many of us could bear in mind, just remember where you’re going. This is the miracle of flight! You are going to be sitting in a pressurized, metal tube flying at 35,000 feet above the earth’s surface and travelling at 550mph – and it’s all as normal as getting on a train.

Learn a new skill on your next holiday

Are you looking for something new and interesting to do on your next holiday? With the weather turning colder, consider using your trip as a chance to gain a new skill.

Foreign Languages
Have you ever fancied learning a foreign language, or at least learning how to order things in the restaurant abroad? You’ll be happy to know that it’s possible to find language classes for foreigners in pretty much every European country.

Courses usually take at least one week, but can be much, much longer. The intensity of the courses varies greatly, and you would be able to pick one that suits you. This could be a relaxed, one hour in the morning course, or an intense full-time course.

Group courses are usually cheaper than individual lessons, but the latter focus more on your personal needs. Many language schools combine language classes with various other activities: you can sign up for Spanish and FlamencoFrench and Bordeaux wine tastingGreek with dancing, or Italian and opera!

Cooking
Do you love paella, pizza, or pain-au-chocolat, and would like to learn how to make these from scratch? What better way to learn than from local chefs on your next holiday.

Cooking courses welcome complete beginners and experienced cooks alike, and everyone can learn something new.

The variety of cooking courses is great. You could bake baguettes in France or make and decorate chocolates in Switzerland. How about preparing tapas in the heart of Barcelona or learning from top British chefs on a Food Hero cruise?

You can choose between short courses that only take a couple of hours, full-day courses, or an entire week or two of cooking lessons.

Wine
Perhaps you enjoy a glass of wine with your dinner and would like to learn more about the different types wines and grapes. If that’s the case, you may enjoy a wine tasting holiday.

These usually involve touring different vineyards, learning about the grapes and the process of winemaking, and trying many local wines. Dedicated wine tasting holidays range from weekend trips to holidays lasting a couple of weeks. If that’s a bit too long for you, many vineyards offer short daily tours with wine tastings.

It’s not only the big wine countries, such as France, Italy, or Spain, that offer wine tasting holidays. For an off-the-beaten-track wine holiday consider Hungary, the home of the sweet Tokaji wine, or Portugal where Port wine comes from.

Photography
Have you marvelled at beautiful photographs in travel magazines and thought you would like to take better pictures? Adding a photography course to your next trip might be a good idea.

Photography holidays vary in their focus (pardon the pun!), offering a lot of choice: portrait, wildlife, cityscapes. During a photography course you would learn about light, composition, and how to capture movement in your photos. Some courses require you to have your own camera, while others offer rental of equipment.

Why not select a destination and see if there’s a photography holiday available? You are sure to return home with a collection of stunning photos that will remind you of your holiday. What a way to impress your family and friends!

The courses described here are just a taste of what’s on offer. (We have not personally checked these courses, and they are not specific recommendations, but they give you some idea of what is available.)

There are many different activities available in all the European countries. With some research, you are bound to find a perfect learning holiday for you.

Have you heard of these new holiday essentials?

This month, we take a look at a few things to make your holiday easier which you might not have considered.

Charging your gadgets
So much of our life revolves around technology nowadays. We rely on our phones, tablets and laptops to find our way, for hotel bookings, contact information, to figure out where we want to visit and so much more, but it’s often difficult to keep your devices fully charged when you’re on the move.

Don’t forget to take plug adapters that are suited to the country you are visiting – don’t forget to check the electrical plug information for the country you are visiting). If you are visiting several countries, you can get a universal travel adapter which, via its various connectors, should work anywhere.

Battery packs can be very useful. Even if you’ve got a phone that doesn’t have a removable battery, such as an iPhone, you can plug your USB charging lead into the battery pack. This is particularly useful on a long flight, where you’re using your phone a lot for entertainment, and will need to charge it again before you get to your hotel.

Amazon sells a good selection of battery packs. The higher the mAh rating, the more charge the battery can hold. We’ve found that the Anker Power Bank Astro E1 5200mAhworks well, and can hold enough energy to charge an iPhone (or most other phones) twice. It only costs £12.99, and is very easy to use, so it’s well worth having. Don’t forget that you still need to take your phone charger cable, to use with the battery pack.

A battery pack is an extra piece of kit that needs to be carried around, which is why battery charging backpacks are becoming so popular. Yes, it’s a rucksack with a built-in battery!

With various options to suit any budget, there is a whole host of backpacks on the market that can charge multiple devices at the same time. You’ll normally have a backpack or bag with you while you’re on holiday, so it makes sense for your bag to double up as a portable charger.

Purified drinking water
Water can often be a problem when you’re travelling. It’s not just far flung countries that don’t have safe water to drink – often you’ll find that hotels or restaurants all over Europe don’t have water that’s safe to drink, and it can be hugely dangerous if you’re out walking and you don’t have enough water.

Taking a portable water filtration bottle with you on your travels is invaluable – no matter where you are, having a bottle with an inbuilt filtration system means that you’ll never be without the ability to have clean and safe drinking water.

Comfortable cushions
Adjustable seat cushions are an absolute lifesaver when you’re flying or sitting in vehicles for long periods of time. Memory foam cushions, electronically controlled cushions and inflatable cushions have been designed to make your life more comfortable; if you suffer from bad circulation or find that you ache when you’re in the same position for too long, then these cushions are for you.

The travel versions are designed to be compact and fold away easily, and give you the most comfortable travel you’ve ever experienced.

Sand-resistant beach mat
The new sand-resistant beach mat is an absolute essential when you’re going on a beach holiday. These mats are designed with filtration technology to filter out small particles through the mat, so you never have to worry about your beach mat being covered in sand again.

They’re available in a massive variety of colours and sizes so you can find one that you absolutely love and, while they’re not cheap, it’s lovely to be able to take a mat to the beach and comfortably sit or lie on it all day without having to brush endless amounts of sand off it.

We hope you enjoy our suggestions, and that they make your travelling life even more fun!

Tips to make the most of a European cruise holiday

Cruise holidays in Europe are becoming more popular by the year. If you’ve never been on a cruise, they are a great alternative to hotels. You’d be surprised how much variety a cruise can offer, and we’re sure you’ll find some helpful tips here.

Not all cruises are specific to a particular country        
Many cruise operators have European region-specific cruises that offer you a real variety of culture and sightseeing. There are a lot of cruise routes, so it’s worth you coming up with a list of countries you would like to explore. You should then be able to find a route that fits with the countries that you’d like to see.

However, if you want a longer holiday then you can take a 15-day cruise through most of central Europe. These cruises offer great value, allowing you to disembark to explore key landmarks and indulge in the local cuisine. Many cruise holidays can provide shuttle transport to these areas, so you don’t need to worry about taxis or using local transport.

Short river cruises 
River cruises offer you a way to see the waterways inside a country. They give you the inland cruise experience, getting into the heart of the country that you are sailing through. If you are looking for a shorter cruise but still want to see a large region of Europe, then taking a river cruise would be well worth considering.

A cruise along the River Danube can be between five days to two weeks, depending on how far you want to go and where you want to visit. The Danube can take you through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary in just one week!

If you just wanted to stick to Germany, you could take a five-day river cruise through cities like Nuremberg and Cologne. The beauty is that you can find a lot of different options and pick the one that suits you best.

Guided excursions to organise your sightseeing
Many cruise operators have a tour manager who can arrange outings to local areas you might be interested in. Cruises are quite flexible: you can choose whether to take the excursions or, if you prefer, have a rest with a drink on the deck and take in the view.

Most people who take a cruise tend to get off and explore, taking advantage of these outings. The tour manager is usually someone who knows the area very well, and there’s the bonus of being able to explore an area without having to worry about arranging travel back to your ship.

Cruise companies offer paid incentives for longer cruises
Operators have all types of offers available when you are booking. Be sure to check for inclusive meals and drinks: many cruises have this as standard, but not all.

Specialist travel insurance for cruises
Most travel insurance policies don’t cover you for a cruise without taking out the Cruise Cover option. Be sure to choose Cruise Cover when you are buying travel insurance for your cruise. All our travel insurance policies offer Cruise Cover as an option.

First Time Cruising?
If you are a first-time cruiser, or are considering a cruise, then there is a huge amount of information on the website Cruise Critic, which can help you to make the right choice.

Gadget tips for a spontaneous French road trip

Megan Thomas tells us about a holiday for the more adventurous and romantic, and shows how you can follow in her footsteps.

I’ve just returned from a two-week road trip from the UK to the South of France, and did it with absolutely no pre-planning except booking onto a ferry from Dover to Calais.

“Why?” may spring to mind – my answer is simply: these days, you don’t need to plan, provided you’ve got the right tools.

“How?” is hopefully your next question, because I’ve got the answers right here.

Legal requirement: get a driving kit for France
Amazon sells a driving kit, and this is roughly £25 you will never regret spending. Amazon does free UK deliveries, so there is absolutely no excuse not to have your Driving Kit packed in your car before you embark on your adventures.

I left on my adventures with only one breathalyser, and was informed by someone I met that if I didn’t have two, I would get fined. I got lucky, but I wouldn’t want anyone getting fined for something as minor as this seems to be (seeing as, hopefully, nobody will need to actually use them!)

Once you’ve made this purchase, it means that the pre-planning for a road trip is minimal and you can pack up and go – driving from Arras, to Lyon, to Montpellier was easy knowing that my car was well-prepared and within French laws.

Download MAPS.ME
One of my favourite additions to our technologically-infused society is the smartphone. With a car-phone-charger in tow, and preferably also a separate battery pack for charging, all your best travel plans can be kept on your phone.

MAPS.ME is what I’d describe as a hybrid between Trip Advisor and a GPS/SatNav. When you’re connected to the internet, you download maps of places you plan on visiting – the whole of France, for instance. This app saved me when I took a wrong turn, finding myself in the industrial area of Bordeaux with no internet access.

Whatever you do, don’t rely on internet access always being available – always have offline options available.

You can download MAPS.ME from the iPhone app store or the Android app store.

More on navigation
Good navigation is essential if you aren’t precisely planning your destinations before you leave – which I found to be is a perfectly viable option, provided you’ve got this app to make sure you are never in a situation where you don’t know where you are.

If you have a SatNav for your car, make sure it covers Europe as well as just the UK – some do, some don’t. Even if you wanted to buy a new SatNav specifically for your trip, they are fairly cheap these days: for example, Argos sells the “Garmin Drive 50LM 5 Inch Europe Lifetime Maps” for £88.99.

Use Airbnb to find places to stay
Airbnb – which can either be downloaded from the iPhone app store or Android app store, or used online at airbnb.com – offers holiday homes and rentals. I consider it to be the easiest, cheapest way to find accommodation that precisely suits your needs in no time at all. Better yet, it means you can stay in a homely environment.

Each day, once I had decided where I would be travelling to, I’d simply type my budget and city into Airbnb and explore the many amazing houses and apartments on offer in the towns I was visiting. Before the days of Airbnb, a lack of planning could mean a lack of options.

This the perfect medium for spontaneous travelling, because Airbnb monitors its users diligently and you are unlikely to go somewhere you haven’t researched reliably. I found myself in central Marseilles, overlooking the Opera, and within walking distance of some of the most delicious snails and mussels I’ve ever tasted.

With these steps in place, your only concern will be finding a delightful spot to order a cold drink and a fresh baguette. The best way to find an authentic place is to ask your Airbnb owner (the person who owns the property that you will be staying in). All the pre-planning and research in the world can never match up to a local’s knowledge!

Our planning notes for the more cautious

  • Take a second phone or tablet computer to use as a backup.
  • Take a spare charger, and a spare battery pack. (Even if you can’t replace the battery on your phone, like with an iPhone, you can plug your charger cable into the battery pack to get an extra charge.)
  • Also consider carrying a SatNav (making sure it covers France, or the area you will be driving in).
  • Take a paper map to use as a last resort.
  • Ensure your car is roadworthy before you go, and that it has been serviced, topped up with necessary fluids and oil, etc.
  • Check your car breakdown cover to ensure that it covers you while you are abroad.
  • Check your car insurance covers you to drive abroad.
  • Check your travel insurance covers you to drive abroad.

Further information to keep you safe and legal
You should review the following information before you leave home, to make sure you stay safe and legally compliant:

Transport tips for cheap travel around Europe

Once you’ve booked your flights and made sure you’ve got a great deal, here are a few tips to ensure that you carry on saving money and time on your holiday transport.

InterRail pass  not just for students!
If you’re thinking of travelling around Europe by train then why not consider an InterRail pass? These tickets start from £210 for over 60s, and can be a huge money-saver if you’re looking to travel long distances within a country, or you are crossing between two or more countries. This is especially true in the more expensive western European nations such as France and Germany, where train travel can be a considerable expense.

Even better, purchasing this pass gives you two free trips within your home country (the UK), allowing you to get to and from the airport, ferry or Eurostar terminal. Just be sure to book in advance, as tickets depend on availability and there can sometimes be an additional charge.

There’s plenty of information on either the InterRail website or the forever helpful Seat61.com, which offers invaluable advice on train and bus travel across Europe and beyond.

Train passes for a single country
Some countries offer train passes just for travel within their borders. For example, it is possible for a non-Spanish resident to buy a pass for travel throughout Spain, where you can select a certain number of trips in a month. This allows you to book a seat on every train, without having to pay any additional fees, with prices starting from €195 for four trips in a month. This could be a worthwhile investment if you’re planning on travelling across the country.

Travel within a city – includes savings on attractions
Anyone who has travelled to London in the last 10 years will appreciate the usefulness of an Oyster card, where a small upfront payment can save you several pounds on each journey within the capital whether by tube, bus or even tram, more than paying for itself in a day or two.

The good news is that other European cities have followed suit and offer similar passes with discounted fares. Countless cities have such schemes, for example, Berlin’s WelcomeCard offers unlimited travel for 48 hours for just €20.

Some schemes also include deals to give you savings on popular attractions within the city. The Lisboa Card costs €19 and is valid for 24 hours, giving you unlimited travel throughout Lisbon as well as free entry to some of the city’s best museums, such as the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, priority access to avoid queuing and even discounts on tours.

Visitors to Prague can purchase a Litacka card for around £1.60, which can then be topped up like an Oyster card to access cheaper fares. Cardholders can also receive discounts of up to 50% on many major museums and galleries, including the City of Prague Museum, so it’s great value, and it’s well worth grabbing one of these if you’re heading to the Czech capital.

Websites for planning your transport
There are also lots of handy websites that are useful when planning your trip before you go, and for using when you’re on holiday. Rome2Rio is particularly good – even if you’re not actually going to Rome or Rio! – because it calculates the price and time it takes to reach a location using all modes of transport including taxis, buses and trains. This gives you all the information you need to make your decision and ensure you pay the correct amount.

Beat stress with these holiday tips

The best thing about holidays is that they allow you to forget about the daily stresses at home. Make sure you plan ahead so everything runs smoothly and then you can focus on whatever holiday activity you’re looking forward to, whether it’s relaxing, sightseeing or eating and drinking.

Planning
Careful planning before you head off can save a huge amount of hassle later on and cut down on travel time. Think about avoiding the peak holiday periods as prices will be lower and everywhere is likely to be quieter.

You can use price as an indicator of how busy a place will be at a certain time – the more expensive the trip, the more packed with people it is likely to be! If you’re retired, you’ve got new-found flexibility, so use it!

Packing checklist
When packing, make a checklist of everything you need to take. If you keep it on your computer, or in an app like Evernote, or print it out, you can use it again the next time you travel. Here is an example packing checklist, for inspiration.

Ensure you’ve got copies of important documents such as passport and insurance details in your hand luggage just in case anything happens; it’s well worth leaving photocopies of these with family or friends at home in case of emergencies.

Hotel
Thanks to the internet, the days of arriving at an “idyllic” hotel, only to find a nasty surprise, should be coming to an end. It’s well worth spending time reading recent reviews, both good and bad, on sites such as booking.com, TripAdvisor and Expedia so there is less chance of a nasty surprise waiting for you. No one wants to go on holiday to find out their hotel is next to a building site!

You can ask questions on the TripAdvisor forum to get answers to specific questions you might have, or you can ask the hotel directly. There can be a language barrier with hotels, and sometimes it’s easier to email them, and other times it’s easier to phone them. If you don’t have luck with one method of contact, try another!

Notifying your service providers
If you think you may be withdrawing cash from your bank account while abroad, make sure you let them know where you’ll be on which dates so there are no issues with security. There would be few things worse than the cash machine keeping your card and having to liaise with both your bank and the local one to retrieve it!

Similarly, you might need to notify your credit card issuer to tell them that you will be using the card abroad. This especially applies if your card issuer is particularly sensitive to fraud, and tends to block your card quite often as a precaution.

Mobile phone roaming
Everyone wants to be able to keep in touch with family and friends when away so consider downloading an app such as WhatsApp or Skype which lets you speak over an internet connection. It can be hugely expensive to make calls from your mobile and to browse the internet without using a wifi network, so it’s always best to turn off the “Roaming data” setting on your phone to avoid charges.

Although you don’t want your phone to be using roaming data, it’s useful if it can connect to the local mobile network to receive calls and text messages, just in case of emergency. To do this, you might need to ask your mobile network provider to switch on roaming for you.

If you have just got a new phone, or switched your mobile phone contract, roaming is likely to be turned off. Contact your mobile network, or log into their website, to make sure roaming is on. While you’re doing it, make sure you are aware of the fees for roaming, so you don’t get caught paying high charges for calls!

Internet calls from wifi are often your best option when phoning home from your holiday, using Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.

If you’re planning on being away for a bit longer or you’re a regular visitor to the country, it may be worth buying a local SIM card so you can make calls when abroad.

Travelling
The most stressful part of a holiday is often the travelling. When all you want to do is get to the pool, faffing around at the airport for taxis or currency can be a real hassle. When booking your hotel ask whether they offer a shuttle service: this is sometimes free, and even if there’s a cost involved, it can be worth it to avoid having to negotiate a taxi or work out which bus to catch.

If you’ve exchanged your money at home you will often get a better rate than at a kiosk in the arrival lounge, plus you won’t have to queue. Double-check the currency of your destination before you go – not everywhere uses the Euro!

Remember to keep a bottle of water handy (after you’ve gone through airport security) and any medications you might need in your hand luggage, just in case! It’s often worth keeping a day’s worth of clothing, especially underwear, in your hand luggage, just in case your suitcase goes missing.

Finally, don’t try to squeeze too much into your holiday. It’s often far more relaxing to pick a few places to visit so you don’t spend all your time on transport, letting you enjoy your holiday! It can feel like anything but a holiday if you’re rushing to fit everything in, so allow yourself time just to relax, and realise you’re probably not going to be able to fit absolutely everything into just a week.

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!

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.

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.