Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

What about a holiday in the UK?

Much as you might think that holidays have to be abroad, that just isn’t the case at all.

For every category of holiday that you get abroad, there’s somewhere that you can do the very same thing at home.

Disneyland? No, but there’s Alton Towers. Sea and sand? There’s hundreds of miles of it right around Great Britain! Cheap family holidays? Caravan Parks have long been a fixture in the UK holiday season. They provide all the facilities that you’ve probably experienced in leisure parks abroad.

What about those caravan parks though? Put the old style image of Butlins out of your head when you think about a modern caravan park. You’ll get all the facilities that you’d expect in a “normal” holiday resort from pools to modern spas along with a nightlife that would put many places to shame. As far as the “caravan” goes, think of it as a small house because it’s in a whole different league than any caravan you’ll have seen if you’ve not considered them for a few years or have only seen those being towed along the road.

And that’s just the resort. Many of them are located a short distance from major attractions offering you an additional range of activities.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Dublin on the cheap

We’re toying with the idea of a trip to Dublin for St Patrick’s Day next year and therefore on the lookout for cheap accommodation of which the obvious choice is arguably hostels.

The name hostel probably puts most people off right away but it’s something of a misnomer for the sites that fall under the banner of “hostel listings sites” in that they have become such good sources of reservations for the accommodation listed on them that you get everything from true hostels through to five star hotels these days. For example, there’s Glen Guesthouse and Jackson Court Hotel both available from EUR 25 per person.

There’s a couple of things to watch if this is your venture into the hostel booking sites which can easily catch you out if you’re not careful.

First, private room means essentially a normal hotel room whereas shared room usually means dorm style accommodation.

Second, the prices are per person whereas the hotels listing on the site usually set their prices per room which can lead to confusion over prices. For example, you will normally see a range of room types listed for each property so you could have EUR 15 for a 4 bed room, EUR 25 for a 2 bed room. This actually means that the 4 bed room is for four people and costs EUR 60 whilst the 2 bed room is for two people and costs EUR 50; you can’t book 2 people into the 4 bed room and just pay EUR 30 as you might think.

Finally, although it might say, for example, double bed room it doesn’t mean that. What it means is that it’s a room for two people and you need to read the room description to see if it has one bed or two.

Still, if you’re careful about the differences in terminology, you can find some great bargains on the hostels sites.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

A cheap day-trip to Glasgow

Stenaline extended their £10 return day-trips to Glasgow throughout the summer and indeed the closing date quoted is now well into November so we were able to get the day-trip with the kids last week.

As with all day-trips involving any kind of boat or plane, there’s an early start. In this case, you’ve to be there no later than 7am and, of course, allowing for parking and whatnot that really means more like 6.45am. The ship doesn’t depart ’til 7.30 but the cheap trips over the holiday period are very popular so there was quite a line to checkin and it was quite a crowded trip. Arrival in Cairnryan is a little before 10am.

The ship is the quite nice Superfast, although with the trip taking almost 2.5 hours, it doesn’t seem that fast. Food in the restaurant isn’t cheap but the prices aren’t too over the top and the portions are ample (the childrens’ ones were fine for me). It’s best to grab a seat as soon as you get on as the available seats are taken up really quickly on the more crowded crossings. There’s the usual arcade games and small cinema (aimed mainly at the kids) with a spa along with assorted treatments for the adults. They’ve a small number of suites (for up to five people) which, at £25, are worth it after a tiring day though, of course, you only have use of it for a couple of hours.

The coaches set off not much after 10 with arrival in Glasgow scheduled for noon. However, in practice, we didn’t arrive at the Buchanan Street bus station until 12.30 which means that we only got four hours in Glasgow. The bus station is quite central though getting around Glasgow takes longer than you’d expect i.e. don’t try to be too ambitious if you’re intending to use public transport to get around.

What’s to see? It’s very much a Victorian era port city so there’s a focus on things along the docks although there are a number of things dotted around the city of course. All of these are covered in sufficient detail in the What to See and Do guide although the guide covers everything and for a day-trip is just too much.

Highlights suitable for a day-trip include:

  • The Science Centre, accessible from the Cessnock stop on the underground (allow 40 minutes each way for travel as you’ve to walk to the Buchanan Street stop and have a 15 minute walk from Cessnock). Mainly aimed at 7-14 year olds; it seems to include almost all the science gimics that you’re ever heard of. Quite expensive and very overpriced for adults considering that they’re mainly just accompanying their children.
  • Glasgow Police Museum is merely one of a range of museums covering different aspects of life in the city. Choose one that you’re interested as you won’t have time to do justice to more than that.
  • And, of course, the shopping of which the Buchanan Street area is well served.

The fledgling underground covers the city but allow for long walks to and from the stations as they are none too plentiful at the moment. There’s the usual open-top bus which takes about two hours to get around the city so you can’t really use it to get from A to B on a day-trip.

Is it worth it? I have to say, “no”, basically because four hours in Glasgow just isn’t enough and especially so as you spend eight hours travelling there and back. If the time there were a couple of hours longer, it would make an enjoyable day but with only the four hours, it’s all to easy to feel that it’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” kind of trip. So, lots of stuff to see, but ruined by being there just too little time.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Getting a cheap short-break

Booking a cheap short-break holiday sounds really simple,  doesn’t it? Just pick a cheap flight from your local airport and off you go.

There are two problems with that approach though. First, there’s the flight times in both directions. Whilst 10am sounds reasonable enough as a departure time for our next trip it means a 7am departure from home which is a little early and forget about that 8am departure! Likewise, on the way back you don’t want to be shooting for morning departures from an unfamiliar city; much better to aim for late afternoon or perhaps early evening which a) gets you more time in the resort and b) gives you lots of time to organise the trip and allow for any mistakes you may make in the journey to the airport (eg our next trip involves a walk, boat trip and coach trip to reach the airport).

The second problem is the accommodation. In the off-season you can find that there are more flights going to a resort than there are reasonable rooms available to cope with the people arriving or that the reasonable rooms are way too expensive for a short break.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. For example, if you’re thinking of Madrid you could consider Madrid Norte rather than those right in the centre. Amersterdam is small enough that Amsterdam hotels generally don’t get split so much into regions and the small size of the place means that most are either in or close to excellent spots in the city and much the same applies for Lisbon hotels too. It’s even possible to shoot for romantic hotels in Florence (although do watch those tagged “boutique hotels” which can be considerably more expensive than normal hotels and may not offer much for that supposed exclusivity).

Prices in all the above aren’t too bad although do be wary of the “prices from X”. Sorting by price for a double room works well if you’re looking for a double room but if you’re bringing along the kids you can sometimes find that the hotel with the cheapest double room either doesn’t have family rooms or if it does they’re not the cheapest available in that destination so it pays to check out the prices of the first four or five hotels listed.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Remember the good old days of long haul flights with all the goodies?

It seems like aeons ago when we were all routinely pampered with blankets, pillows, endless food & drink, socks, little “do not disturb” signs, toothbrushes, combs and even flight bags. Actually, you needed the flight bag to carry off all the goodies that you were given in those days. That was in economy too… in first class you’d have needed porters to take everything with you!

Everything is different now of course in the age of the discount airline. The food & drink only turns up if you pay for it, the flight bag has long since been consigned to history and they’ve even cut into the basics such as blankets and pillows which often aren’t even adequately stocked on planes never mind being at least the little bit overstocked as they were yesteryear.

Funnily enough it’s actually the summer season when travellers end up feeling cold or even freezing. That’s the season when everyone’s heading off to the beaches and leaving home when it’s fairly warm too so they’re travelling in their summer attire of t-shirts, shorts, skirts and light clothing generally.

What do you do about it though? Well, you could cart on a blanket and pillow but, frankly, you’d look like a complete plonker doing so and besides you’ve got to factor the weight into your greatly reduced luggage allowance. It’s also two carryon items which may not be allowed but anyway, do you really want to juggle two more things on your vacation?

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.
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