Inspiration: Take a holiday in the sun in Zante

You may never have been to Zante, also known as Zakynthos, but if you’ve ever flicked through a European holiday brochure you have almost certainly seen a photograph of this island, the most southerly of the Greek Ionian islands.

Smugglers Cove is what the island of Zante is most famous for, and it’s perhaps not difficult to understand why. Its beautiful azure blue water against its pale sand makes this beautiful cove picturesque enough, but it has an added and very unique feature in the form of a shipwreck!

Back in 1980, a ship smuggling cigarettes was being pursued by the Greek Navy when it hit rocks in bad weather, and the remains of the resulting shipwreck are still on the beach it washed up on several decades later.

Only accessible by boat, Smugglers Cove is a must-see sight when visiting Zante and so organised trips are widely available. There are no shops or facilities in this small cove though, so visitors must remember to bring (and take back with them!) anything which they may need while there, such as drinks and parasols for shelter from the strong Greek sunshine.

Temperatures can be quite warm and sunny, reaching 27-30C (80–86F) between June and September, so you’ll definitely need your sunscreen!

Something else which Zante is famous for is its Loggerhead turtles, of the species “Caretta Caretta”. These endangered turtles choose the beaches of Zante as their nesting ground year after year and so some beaches around the bay of Lagana are often guarded between the months of June until October and access may be either totally prohibited or subject to restrictions such as where you can sunbathe.

There is still plenty of accessible beach for sun-worshippers though, so these localised restrictions are a small price to pay for the on-going preservation of these amazing animals and the possibility of seeing one if you are lucky, when out on a “Turtle Spotting” boat trip, or even when relatively close to the shore on your own pedalo!

These two unique and fascinating attractions aside, the glorious beaches of Zante, its clear waters, fabulous Greek cuisine and varied nightlife (which ranges from quiet tavernas to bustling nightclubs for the younger generation) make it an ideal summer holiday destination.

The only downside is the airport! Extremely small and under-developed it does not make for the most relaxing start or end to a holiday, but if you can tolerate that then you really will be rewarded with a fantastic holiday!

Save 10% when you buy Car Hire Excess Waiver insurance

Most car rental companies charge an excess if you have an accident. This means that you will be responsible for the first part of the claim.

The part you are responsible for is called the “excess” and it varies from one car hire company to another. However, it’s usually between £500 and £2,000 depending on the vehicle type you rent – but it can be substantially more on high-value cars.

You can protect yourself against these charges by purchasing an excess waiver, sometimes known as a Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW). Some companies will try to sell you a waiver when you book the hire car, often with hard-sell tactics, but it can cost over £20 a day! It’s better to buy your policy in the UK before you travel: you’ll save money and get more comprehensive cover too.

So if you’re hiring a car when you travel, go to CHEW Insurance and use discount codeAPR15 for a 10% discount.

Reduce the Risk of Lost or Stolen Luggage

Every time we travel and are separated from our baggage, we run the risk of it either being lost or stolen. The ever-increasing numbers of passengers which airlines and airports are serving these days makes baggage handling a constant challenge for them. Although the risks of lost bags cannot be entirely eliminated, there are some measures you can take to help reduce the risk of this nightmare affecting you.

1. Avoid checking in your bags – If you can avoid having to check a bag and only take carry-on luggage (for example, if you are only going away for a long weekend) then this is an obvious way to keep tabs on your belongings. Quite often, with some prudent packing and a decent carry-on case, this can be an excellent way of not only preventing having to be separated from your luggage, but also saving you some money (given that many airlines charge extra for checked hold baggage). It will also save you time, because you won’t have to queue at the baggage carousel.

2. Clear labelling – The airline will attach its own label to your case for identification purposes, but it still doesn’t hurt to also attach your own label, with details of your name and contact information. Some passengers are reluctant to have their personal information visible on their bags, as they do not wish to run the risk of their now obviously empty home address being advertised to a would-be burglar – but this risk can be avoided by simply including only a name and contact telephone number, rather than your full address. Don’t forget to include your country code (+44) in the phone number, and to write “UK” on the label.

3. Additional identification inside – For additional identification purposes, a sheet of paper detailing your name and contact information can be placed inside the suitcase, to aid with identification should the case get lost and its label has become detached. If you wish, you can tape it to the inside lid of the case to stop it getting lost or flapping around.

4. Easily identifiable – One of the main causes of lost/stolen luggage is misidentification. With many suitcases looking so alike, it is very easy for a passenger to remove the wrong suitcase from the carousel and not notice until they get home! You can reduce this risk by giving your luggage some form of unique identifier. This can be in the form of either a piece of coloured ribbon, a sticker, or your initials, for example. Find a way to make your bag distinctive and it is less likely to get picked up by another traveller by mistake.

5. Not too flash – Your top-of-the-range designer suitcase may be too much of a temptation to resist for some would-be thieves, so try not to check-in obviously expensive luggage as it is at risk of being stolen, regardless of how worthless the actual contents inside may be!

Protect yourself with good insurance:
Remember though that the risks of a lost suitcase can never be eliminated entirely, so if it is irreplaceable and you cannot afford to lose it, then don’t pack it!

EHICPlus travel insurance includes cover for a “Total limit for baggage including Valuables” of £1,500 – see the Policy Summary for details.

Malta: Still warm! A good time to visit!

If you are looking for somewhere to take a last-minute Mediterranean beach holiday before the winter sets in, it can often be tricky to find somewhere warm enough in Europe this late in the season. Why not consider Malta?

Malta is located far enough south (at the base of Sicily) that it is parallel with north Africa, and fortunately enjoys pleasant weather well into the autumn, with average temperatures in October still exceeding 20 degrees Celsius. This is a actually an excellent time of year to explore the country’s numerous in-land sights without the oppressive heat of the high-season sun.

Once part of the British Empire, Malta’s history can be traced back to the fourth century BC. In fact, there are an abundance of ancient grand churches and stunning temples to explore, with the oldest, the megalithic temple of Hagar Qim, thought to have been built as early as 3600BC!

The capital, Valetta (the smallest capital in the European Union) was actually granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1980, which considering its wealth of preserved 16th century architecture is no surprise. A main focal point, magnificent both inside and out, is the St John’s Co-Cathedral built in the 1570s. Be sure to also visit the National Museum of Archaeology for a fascinating insight into Malta’s abundant history.

Valetta is also home to a labyrinth of limestone walled streets, which host a vast array of quaint little shops where you can purchase unique gifts and even watch some being made, for example, the art of glass-blowing can often be observed here and the finished articles purchased.

Just north of Valetta, Sliema and St Julian’s are the main tourist resorts and are where the majority of the hotels and restaurants and located. Malta is not considered a party island – which is what often makes it an attractive choice for more mature travellers – but St Julian’s does have a reasonable amount of entertainment in the evenings for those seeking it.

For sun-worshippers the Grand Harbour is not to be missed, and the glorious crystal clear waters – some of the bluest and cleanest in the Mediterranean, are very inviting. It should be noted though that Malta has predominantly rocky beaches as opposed to sandy ones. However, Golden Bay has a nice sandy beach and was in fact a film location for the film “Troy”.

Wherever you stay, the island is small enough (just over 122 sq metres) that you are never far away from something of interest. So, whether it is culture and history you are seeking, or sun and sea, Malta will definitely tick all your boxes and the Maltese people, being especially friendly towards the Brits, are sure to make you feel most welcome.

Munich: Surf in the City

Yes, you read the headline right, and no, it has nothing to do with Carrie Bradshaw! In Munich, you really can watch people surfing in the city and it is strangely captivating, as the crowds of tourists who visit the “Englicher Garten” (“English Garden”) in order to watch the surfers strutting their stuff every day demonstrates. The water flowing under a bridge hits a stone step around two feet high and creates “waves” from the rapids – there’s no shortage of locals with wetsuits jumping onto a surfboard and pulling tricks for the amused onlookers.

This is not only the largest park in Munich, but it is one of the largest city parks in Europe. It has excellent restaurants too – we had a first class meal at “Seehaus im Englischen Garten”, presented by the noted high-quality German restaurant group Kuffler.

Of course, there is much more to Munich than the surfers, or indeed the tranquil beauty of its public parks and well-tended open spaces and gardens – of which there are certainly plenty for you to explore!

Munich has lots to offer as a city-break destination, regardless of how long you are visiting for. It’s a city brimming with beautiful historical architecture and landmarks, with the spectacular neo-gothic “Neues Rathaus” (New Town Hall) in the Marienplatz central square being a particular highlight of ours, with its coal-blackened façade and well-sculptured gargoyles. Munich escaped utter destruction during World War 2, and many attractive old buildings still remain to be admired.

Food and Drink
There is also no shortage of superb cafes and restaurants, not to mention the famous beer halls! The Hofbrauhaus is the most famous of them, but in any that you visit you can be confident of a traditional Bavarian experience! Imagine the iconic image of a lady dressed in traditional clothing (called a Dirndl), with a large tankard of beer in each hand, and the picture you conjure up is exactly what you’ll get! Of course, you can also get Bratwurst, the classic German sausage, and a good Schnitzel (flattened pork or veal, coated in breadcrumbs). Germany also has many regional sausages: Munich is in the Bavaria region, where the speciality isWeisswurst (“white sausage”, made from veal and pork). A tip from our German friends: you don’t eat the skin of a Weisswurst sausage, you suck the meat out of it! Large Pretzels are traditional in bavaria too.

BMW World and Olympic Park
Slightly to the north of the city (but actually very easily accessible thanks to Munich’s excellent tram and train links) you will find attractions such BMW Welt (BMW World), which is a great day out for car enthusiasts. Housed within a futuristic glass and steel building, there is not only a gigantic showroom of powerful cars and bikes for you to enjoy, but there is also a BMW museum adjacent to it where you can quite literally spend almost a whole day exploring the history of BMW. There is currently a Rolls Royce exhibition on the top floor (BMW own Rolls Royce), with lots of these wonderful historic and modern cars, so don’t miss that! If you are really lucky, you may even catch a live motorcycle stunt performancetoo – if you want to see a motorcycle ridden up and down two giant staircases inside a building, this is your chance!

The Olympiapark is next to BMW World and also hosts a multitude of attractions, depending on which day you visit. Built for the 1972 Olympic Summer Games, it also houses a public swimming pool and ice rink for those feeling a little energetic! A particular highlight is the views you can enjoy from here: on a clear day you get a magnificent view of the city of Munich, set against a backdrop of the Alps.

If you fancy giving Munich a try – and you really should do – visiting in autumn you can expect temperatures in the mid teens, with lows of around 10 degrees Celsius and moderate rainfall. You have just missed the Oktoberfest beer festival, for which Munich is famous. However, that’s no bad thing – German people have told us that you can have the same authentic Bavarian experience in the centre of Munich without the crowds or the inflated prices of the festival. So go and explore: it’s well worth a trip.

How to pack your suitcase like a pro: 10 tips

We asked our Victoria, a seasoned traveller who’s had more holidays than most folks have had hot dinners, for her top tips on how to pack your suitcase. Here’s what she told us:

  1. Roll your clothes as they will crease much less than if folded – and who wants to do ironing while they’re on holiday?!
  2. Place any liquids such as shampoo and sun lotion in plastic bags and then tie them securely to avoid your clothes getting wet if they leak.
  3. Line the bottom of the suitcase with the largest and heaviest items such as towels, as smaller things can always be squashed in around the edges.
  4. Ensure any fragile items are placed right in the centre of the case for maximum protection.
  5. Weigh your suitcase before you leave for the airport: nobody wants to have to start unpacking to reduce the weight at the check-in desk! The overweight baggage charges can be extortionate too!
  6. Pack shoes in plastic bags to prevent clothes getting soiled…and ladies…do you really need soooo many pairs?
  7. Utilise as much space as possible, so pack socks inside shoes for example.
  8. Know the weather where you are going and don’t pack lots of bulky items such as jumpers and cardigans if you are not going to need them.
  9. Separate your dirty clothes from clean by packing them in plastic bags for the return journey and then you won’t necessarily need to wash clothes that you didn’t even wear…which leads us on to…
  10. Don’t pack more than you need! Plan your outfits for the duration of your stay – lay clothes out on the bed in piles to represent each day of the holiday and then see if you can maximise wear of any of the items by wearing them in different combinations.

City break: Beautiful Bruges in Belgium

The ever-popular city of Bruges is one of the top attractions in the West Flanders region of Belgium. Its prime location, its ease of access, and not to mention its long and rich history, have all helped to establish Bruges as one of the most visited destinations in the whole of Northern Europe.

It is often said, but Bruges really is a city like no other: its picture postcard scenery and architecture will instantly transport visitors back to a bygone age of cobblestone streets, imposing monasteries, and horse-drawn coaches. Indeed: the city centre is a UNESCO world heritage site, with many of its most iconic buildings dating back to the early middle ages. For this reason, many people who holiday in Bruges for a short break will find enough to occupy themselves simply by taking in these fairytale surroundings: from the imposing Belfry of Bruges tower above the Markt market square, to the ring of labyrinthine canals, which thread between the historic buildings.

Much of Bruges’ appeal is its affinity with the past. For centuries it was a centre for commerce and trade and today, many of its historic industries are preserved, allowing tourists a chance to experience first-hand the master-crafted produce that built the city’s wealth: from hand-sewn lace, to the numerous chocolatiers and breweries. Since the 1960s, the city has repositioned itself as a tourist destination, and the number of restaurants and beer halls exemplify this. With all of these factors combined, a trip to Bruges is not always easy on the waistline!

Things to do
With all of this, it may seem as though Bruges is a living museum more than a contemporary city break destination. In many ways, this is true: an off-season visit can provide a very quiet holiday indeed. But any stay in Bruges will soon reveal a second city too: one that embraces, music, the arts, and modernity from within its centuries-old stone walls. Bruges is renowned for being a cultural hub, attracting performances and exhibits in great number throughout the year. The Blues in Bruges festival arrives in April, bringing live performances from the 10th – 14th, whilst the Budapest Festival Orchestra will be performing works by Dvorák from the 22nd – 24th of May.

For those who like their cultural experiences to include something a little different, the MOOOV Film Festival arrives on April 23rd, and will be exhibiting the weird and wonderful world of cinema until May 4th.

Now is a good time to visit
Spring is a great time to take in Bruges: the clement weather provides the optimum conditions for exploring the city by foot or by boat at a leisurely pace, and it is only just beginning to bustle with the excitement of visitors, before the hectic summer months.

The Canary Islands: which one will you choose?

If you’re planning a trip to the Canary Islands this spring, you’ll find plenty to see and do. Most people know about Tenerife, and we’ve written about it in a previous issue of the newsletter, so in this short guide we’ll be focusing on the other islands: Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro.

The average highest temperatures are 22C (71F) in April and May, so it’s a good place for some early sun without the long flight needed to go beyond Europe.

Gran Canaria

Best known for its beaches, especially on the southern side of the island, Gran Canaria has more to offer than sand and surf. Wild animal shows at Palmitos Park include exotic birds of prey as well as dolphins. The island is also the perfect destination for mountain bikers, with trails for every level of ability.


Strong winds and warm water make Fuerteventura a popular destination for windsurfers and surfers; thousands arrive on the island each year, and there is a large, dedicated community of enthusiasts who live on the island year-round.


Lanzarote’s striking volcanic landscape is well worth a look. A huge eruption in the 18th century covered around a quarter of the island with lava. Today, this lava field is Timanfaya National Park, which contains a free visitors’ centre as well as other attractions including a restaurant which uses the volcanic heat to roast meat.

La Gomera

La Gomera is the second smallest island, larger only than El Hierro. The historic capital of San Sebastian de la Gomera is the port Christopher Columbus sailed from in 1492; its historic buildings are close to fine black sand beaches. The forests of Garajonay National Park are stunning, although they sustained heavy damage from wildfires in 2012.

La Palma

La Palma’s main attraction is its scenic countryside, with numerous walking and hiking trails. The Ruta de los Volcanos features spectacular views from the volcanic craters, but is recommended for experienced hikers. The centre of the island is home to the Caldera de Taburiente, one of the world’s largest erosion craters. The capital, Santa Cruz, features beautiful old buildings and narrow cobblestone streets.

El Hierro

Smallest of the Canaries, El Hierro was considered the westernmost spot in the known world until the discovery of the Americas. Today, the island is primarily a nature reserve, with both land and sea species protected. This makes El Hierro the perfect spot for nature walking, horse riding or scuba diving.

Save money on your next holiday – useful tips

Get the cheapest deal on flights
According to research from Which?, on average flying on a Tuesday works out 35% cheaper than flying on a Friday. Flying back on a Sunday also tends to cost more – up to 45% more!
So when booking flights, it’s worth playing around with the days a bit.

Look at booking two or three months in advance with budget airlines to catch the best price – and don’t be scared to mix and match outbound and inbound flights to different airlines. There’s no reason you can’t fly out with Virgin and come back with easyJet, for example.

Check out Skyscanner to easily compare all flights going to your destination – it’s usually the quickest way to find the cheapest flight.

Avoid changing your travel money at the airport
Rates are always pretty bad at the airport as they know you can’t go elsewhere and get a better rate. You could find yourself paying £50 or more extra at the airport bureau de change than if you’d got your money in advance!

Find the best time to book
Looking to book a holiday but don’t know when’s best? There’s no hard and fast rule but according to travel agent Trailfinders, 11 months before you travel is a good time to book up. At that point flights have just been released and the cheap seats are still available. But for last minute bargains, it’s best to book eight weeks in advance.

Beware tourist scams
Beware scams when you’re abroad. It’s all too common to be overcharged by unlicensed taxi drivers (especially at airports) – so make sure you get an official metered taxi (proper taxis will have their official ID/cab number prominently displayed).

In general it’s a good idea to be cautious when booking events and days out when you’re out there. Make sure you’re not being overcharged by shopping around, and stick to licensed ticket vendors.

For more information, take a look at these common scams.

Don’t be afraid to haggle
One of the most important travel tips for getting cheap family holidays is to haggle. Many travel agents are struggling to compete with online firms, so use this to your advantage.

Once you’ve found a family holiday you like the look of, try to get at least three quotes for the same package. Speak to both travel agents and online providers, and try to get each to beat the others’ prices.

We know holiday companies are having a hard time at the moment – but when it comes to your cheap family holidays, there’s no room for mercy! If you cannot haggle personally then at least have a good look at and for some great offers.

More information

How to get a better deal on your travel money

With a bit of preparation, you can make big savings when you buy your Euros or other foreign currency for your trip. We decided to look a bit closer…

Price comparison sites make it easy to find the best deal on your travel money. We had a look around, and found that has a particularly simple and easy to use website.

As an example, at the time of writing, the prices quoted for how many Euros you can buy for £500 ranged from 579 down to a measly 559, just by choosing one currency supplier over another. That 20 Euros extra could go towards a nice meal (or in Helsinki maybe half a pint of beer!).

According to a recent study by Compare Holiday Money, 38% of British travellers already buy their currency online. They say that not getting the best deal can mean you are spending up to 10% more on your holiday money than you need to, and with the average spend on holiday money being between £500 and £1,000 per family, this can considerably increase the total cost of your holiday.

The exchange rates on this particular website update every seven minutes, and it’s possible to get your currency delivered next day by Royal Mail Special Delivery. Some suppliers will also let you sell back your unused currency, although be careful of the exchange rate they offer you to buy it back: it could be worth hanging onto any unwanted currency ready for your next trip!