Barcelona: A city with something for everyone, including a beach!

With the F1 Grand Prix in Barcelona having just finished we thought we’d take a closer look at this great Spanish destination, since we’ve heard so many people recently telling us how nice it is. If you like a mixture of culture, sight-seeing and relaxing on the beach, this could be the perfect holiday for you!

Barcelona is a city on the coast of north east Spain, just to the south of France. As you’d expect from its location, in June and July it’s likely to be pleasantly warm and sunny with little chance of rain: average temperatures of 20C – 23C (38F – 73F) with average highs of 24C – 27C (75F – 81F).

The Barri Gòtic (“Gothic Quarter”) is the centre of the old city, and many of the buildings date from medieval times, some from as far back as Roman times.
There are several World Heritage Sites in Barcelona including Park Güell, a garden complex designed by Antoni Gaudí with many spectacular architectural features; the breath-taking Sagrada Família church; and the Palau de la Música Catalana concert hall.

There are many museums that between them cover a wide range of subjects including art, archaeology, maritime history, Egyptology, and there is also Cosmocaixa, a science museum that received the European Museum of the Year Award in 2006.

To relax, you can visit one of the 68 parks in Barcelona, which includes 12 historic parks and 5 botanical parks.

Since Barcelona is on the coast you can also visit the beach! Barcelona was rated number one in a list of the top ten beach cities in the world compiled by Discovery Channel and National Geographic. Barceloneta Beach, given a new lease of life in the huge waterfront makeover for the 1992 Olympics, is among the most popular.

So no matter what you’re into, Barcelona should definitely be on your holiday shortlist this year.

Tips on how to avoid losing your baggage

  1. Expensive bags are more likely to get stolen: Consider whether you really need to flaunt your designer bags, or whether you can keep it subtle and fly under the radar of the baggage thieves.
  2. Label outside: Use the label that comes with your suitcase, and clearly include your name, address, telephone number (mobile is best, especially if it works abroad) and email address. Also use the elastic tie tag that you will likely be given at check-in. Always have a hand luggage bag too, with your passport, some cash, and items you can’t risk losing.
  3. Label inside: Tape a label, with the same information as above, to the inside lid of your case. Also tape your itinerary there, so that your luggage stands the best chance of getting back to you if it is lost.
  4. Take off the old tags: Make sure any old tags or barcode stickers are removed from your luggage, otherwise your bag could accidentally make its way to where you went on holiday last year!
  5. Colour code your bag: Have a bright tag on your case, or some easily-identifiable marker like a sticker or a piece of coloured string tied around the handle. That way you can easily pick your bag from a sea of similar bags on the luggage carousel or the coach.

Culture on offer in Paphos, Cyprus

Also warm at this time of year, and perfect for those who love a bit of culture mixed in with their beach holiday, is Cyprus. The Tombs of the Kings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are over 2,000 years old, and are ornately cut into the native rock. You can also see Roman mosaics in the villas of ancient Roman noblemen. You’ll find the Paphos mosaics in Kato Paphos, near the harbour. While you’re in the area, you can also visit Paphos Castle, a listed building which always proves a popular backdrop for photographs. If you still have time for the beach after all that, the temperature can reach highs of 21 degrees C (70F) in April, and 24 degrees C (75F) in May. More information on Paphos.

Fancy dinner cooked on a volcano? Try Lanzarote!

One of the most fun travel tales we’ve heard this month comes from a customer who visited Lanzarote and had dinner cooked on a volcano! They went to the El Diablo restaurant in the Timanfaya National Park, where a grill is placed above the hot rocks. Apparently the food is delicious! Lanzarote is one of the Canary Islands, south-west of Spain and actually parallel with Africa. As you would expect, during April and May, the temperature will usually reach a comfortable 23 degrees C (73F). We’d recommend Costa Teguise as the resort of choice for most EHICPlus customers. More information on Lanzarote.

Destinations to make the most of winter

If you’re fond of winter weather, Norway and Sweden can be stunningly beautiful in February and March, with cross-country skiing, dog-sledding and ice fishing all available.

February is also one of the best times of year to see the Northern Lights in Norway, a stunning natural spectacle in the sky.http://www.visitnorway.com/uk/What-to-do/Attractions-Culture/Nature-attractions-in-Norway/Let-there-be-northern-lights/

At this time of year, European city breaks to take in a spot of culture are also popular. Alongside the obvious delight of Paris, we’ve heard good reports from many people who have recently been to Barcelona: the Spanish city is well-liked by most British people who visit, due to its beauty and wide range of cultural activities.

Finally, if you want to enjoy the beauty of Amsterdam without the stag-dos, now is a good time to visit. Amsterdam is a relaxed, friendly and picturesque city, very different to London, and it’s a great place to unwind for a few days.

Winter Sun: It’s still warm in Tenerife!

If you’ve been shivering in the British snow, take a trip to Tenerife to warm up! According to the Met Office, the next few days will see temperatures of 18-20C (65-68F) – not surprising when you consider that the Canary Islands are south-west of Spain, and are actually as close to the equator as African countries like Morocco and Egypt! However, by going to Tenerife you can avoid political instability and take advantage of low-cost European travel insurance with EHICPlus. You’ll also find that Tenerife is not as humid at this time of year as it is in the summer months. For maximum warmth, head to the south of the island. There are still things to do in Tenerife at this time of year, with colourful parades and carnivals in February and March. If that’s not quite your thing, feel free to stay on the beach!

Flight Cancelled? How to get on the next flight out of there!

With the weather being so cold, there’s a chance your flight could be cancelled. See our Christmas newsletter for some good advice; here’s some more:

1. Queue at the gate desk, but phone your airline’s customer service number at the same time. Then you can speak to whoever you reach first.

2. If you or someone you are with has a Twitter account that you can use on your phone, post tweets about your situation. Make sure you include the name of the airport and the airline. Stay polite! Some airlines have customer service staff who monitor Twitter and can respond quickly to you (as much to avoid bad publicity as anything else!)

3. If the airport has a wi-fi internet connection, you might be able to rebook your ticket online using the airline’s website. You will most likely then be able to print out your new boarding passes at an airport kiosk.

By the way: don’t forget to make sure your checked-in travel bags are taken into account and will find their way to you!

What to do if your flight is cancelled due to bad weather

Snow, fog and floods are just a few of the weather elements that can lead to your flight being cancelled. When flights are cancelled due to adverse weather, airlines usually have a policy set up for passengers. Here’s what to do:
Contact your travel provider (airline or agent): You should be offered re-routing to your final destination at the earliest opportunity or at a later date convenient to you. Alternatively you can apply for a refund on your unused flight at the airport ticket desk or online.
Credit cards and homeowner’s policies: You can contact your card provider for advice, however coverage may often be limited depending on the type of card you used to pay or the coverage you have with your homeowner’s policy.
Booking through an agency: This can actually be to your advantage. You may be entitled to a refund from them if the flight is cancelled and the airline can’t get you on another flight in a timely manner.
Package holiday: Companies offering package holidays are legally bound to hold an Air Travel Organiser’s  Licence (ATOL). If you book a package holiday which includes a flight, then you – and your money – are protected under what’s called the ATOL scheme, so look for companies that are ‘ATOL protected’. You can find more details at http://www.caa.co.uk. Always check the details with your holiday provider before you book.

Top 10 tips on how to stay warm this winter

1. Eat well – eating regular, warm meals will help to keep your energy levels up this winter.
2. Dress in layers – instead of wearing one thick layer, you will get better results by putting a few thinner ones instead.
3. Keep active – even a small amount of exercise every day can make a difference.
4. Insulate your home – making sure you don’t let the warmth escape will also help to keep your heating costs down.
5. Hot water bottle – carry one around, keep it in your bed or even warm your clothes up on a cold morning.
6. Electric blanket – but make sure you unplug it before you go to sleep.
7. Heat one room at a time – keep one area of your home nice and cosy and enjoy your evenings with the whole family;
8. Keep your head and feet warm – putting on warm socks and a hat will help keeping your whole body warm for longer.
9. Choose wool instead of cotton and synthetics – wool will keep you warm even when it is wet.
10. Put an extra blanket or duvet on your bed – turn your heating down and enjoy a great night’s sleep.