Category Archives: Travel Tips

Travel tips to help you make the most of your European trips. Tips on the best things to see, places to stay and eat in European destinations.. The lowdown from locals and experienced European travellers to help you plan your travels.

ElsEncants

Barcelona’s Best Markets

When travelling it’s not all about buildings and monuments; although a great part of sightseeing, we all know one of the best ways of getting to know a city is through its markets; which mark its culture, gastronomy and style of living. As a Mediterranean city, Barcelona is rich in in all kinds of markets, they be permanent, food orientated or second hand markets.

Markets in Barcelona mark the city’s pulse, as well as also being architectural sites. Here’s a selection of Barcelona’s best markets, which will also allow you to visit exciting neighbourhoods of the Catalan capital. One of the best ways to get to know Barcelona as a local and discover its best markets is renting a flat close to (at least one of ) the markets through a agency like oneholidayrentals.com. Then you’ll be able to take your time and enjoy the glorious feast of smells, colors and tastes that these markets offer, and maybe event try some cooking with ingredients purchased there.

Santa Caterina

Barcelonas Best Markets

One of Santa Caterina’s most famous features was part of the market’s refurbiishment in 1997. Its colourful roof, created by Enric Miralles, covers the market and is one of the most photographed rooftops in the city due to its impressive architecture. Inside, classy restaurants sit close to food stalls, combiningthe traditional market setting and innovative cuisine.

La Boqueria

Barcelonas Best Markets

Just off Les Rambles, the Mercat de Sant Josep, or la Boqueria, is by far Barcelona’s most visited, especially by tourists. Under its modernist roof built by Mas Vila in the mid-19th Century, this market is a feast of colors for the eyes: as many types of fruit as you can imagine, fresh fish direct from the Mediterranean Sea and plenty of spices and herbs. Framed by the market’s porches, you’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants where you’ll be able to taste La Boqueria, such as famous Bar Pinotxo or Bar Central’s typical tapas.

Mercat de Sant Antoni

Barcelonas Best Markets

Although it is being restored until the end of 2015, this market is well worth a visit. Its majestic metallic structure is another example of the 19th century architecture and is one of the biggest in Barcelona. Surrounding the market you’ll find clothes stalls twice a week, all the food stalls in the adjacent Ronda de Sant Antoni, and a second hand book market on Sundays which makes it an excellent time to visit.

Els Encants

Barcelonas Best Markets

Els Encants opens its doors Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays for both bargain hunters and the curious. This is one of Barcelona’s oldest markets and was famous for its outdoor atmosphere until its location was changed. Now under a modern roof, this semi-outdoor market combines all kinds of secondhand items such as clothes, furniture, books and any other brand new item you can imagine at low prices. On the last floor, you’ll find plenty of ready-made food stalls where you can relax for a while from all the searching t find that bargain.

Mercat Galvany

Barcelonas Best Markets

Located in the Sarrià-Sant Gervasi district, this amazing building from the early 20th century is considered an artistic monument. Behind its majestic structure created by big glass windows and red brick walls, you’ll find all the services that the upper-side citizens of Barcelona may need. All the meat, vegetables and fish you can think of, organic stalls, perfume shops and even clothes boutiques. The best time to visit is probably during the Christmas period, as stall-owners make a big effort to decorate the market beautifully and also create a pretty impressive crib.

Mercat de la Concepció

Barcelonas Best Markets

Beautifully hidden in the middle of Barcelona’s Eixample between small side streets, La Concepció is a great market built in the 19th century under the influence of London’s famous Crystal Palace. This is a highly social market, as there are always plenty of activities going on; to create a dynamic space open to the neighborhood, full of flower stalls and with great scents. Around la Concepció, you’ll find great restaurants where you’ll be able to taste authentic Catalan cuisine, made with the market’s products and its best delicatessen.

Apart from these permanent markets, Barcelona has many weekly and monthly markets. There’s the Lost & Found Market, celebrated twice a year, where you’ll find the biggest selection of vintage and second hand clothes. The artisan fair in Plaça del Pi, is celebrated on the first Saturday of every month, here you’ll find an excellent array of home-made food Probably the most famous is the Mercat de Santa Llúcia; celebrated during the Christmas period in front of the Cathedral, where you’ll be able to find all your Christmas decorations or the typical Catalan“ Caganer” for your crib.

More Tips on Things to do in Barcelona

We’ve plenty of other ideas for what to do in Barcelona.

Staying Connected While Travelling

Innovative improvements in technology mean fast internet connections no longer require a physical wired connection. Mobile technologies and broadband have transformed the travel industry and revolutionised travellers’ experiences. But how do mobile devices and broadband impact travellers’ behaviour and where do you find cheap broadband deals?

Staying Connected While Travelling

Searching for Wi-Fi on the ferry from Stockholm by Timo Newton-Symes

Changing Travel Behaviour

Today’s travellers are more connected than before. Many are using fast internet connections for activities such as planning travel itineraries, making travel bookings, buying travel insurance and keeping in touch with home. These mobile devices include not only mobile phones but also laptops and tablets.

Travellers are using travel apps for their entire trip, such as booking holidays, checking in for flights and booking ancillary services. Combining mobile broadband with technologies like GPS enable travellers to search locations and find tailored walking routes. Travellers who subscribe to mobile broadband can use their devices in remote areas like a forest as long as there is a mobile signal.

By connecting to Wi-Fi, those exploring the globe can surf the web free anytime and anywhere, such as in a train, hotel, café and retail locations. Some airports have complementary Wi-Fi service for travellers. Major cities around the world are also becoming more connected. Taipei, Florence, Paris, New York and Perth are named in The Telegraph’s list of the world’s Wi-Fi-friendliest cities.

Finding the Best Mobile Broadband Deals

The best deals will depend on how you plan to use mobile broadband while travelling. Data speed, data allowance, cost per minute for voice calls, cost-per-megabyte and duration of the plan are some important things to consider. Faster speed and higher usage limits mean higher cost. The choice also depends on how long you will be in the country.

International roaming means your device will use the network of a provider in your destination country with which your provider has a roaming agreement. The costs of some mobile broadband services abroad are very high. To keep costs low, you should switch off data roaming and use Wi-Fi, turn off automatic app updates and don’t download movies, music and attachments.

If you decide to use data roaming, it’s possible to reduce cost by purchasing an affordable global data roaming bundle. I’ve used Vodafone Euro Traveller, where I pay £3 a day to use my UK package in most European countries.  Buying a local pay-as-you-go SIM card or dongle is another option.  I did that when I was in Belgium, paying 15 Euro (around £12) for a 1GB data SIM. Thank goodness the staff in the store set up the SIM for me as it was a bit complicated on my old phone.

The current EU regulations require providers to cut off your data connection when you’ve used €50 of data in a month when roaming overseas. If you want to avoid running up a massive bill, remember to subscribe to this EU cut-off limit or arrange in advance to have a higher limit when signing up with a provider. Your provider will send you a warning when you hit your limit. A local SIM card is a cheaper option if you’ve to make calls to local numbers. Make sure your handset can be unlocked from your network.

Mobile devices and broadband are revolutionising each stage of the travel process, from planning the trip to writing reviews of the trip online.

Should You Arrange An Airport Transfer?

In the good old days of package holidays, the return transfers from the airport to your hotel, a suitcase in the hold and a meal on the plane was usually included in the price. Now, so many elements of package holidays have been stripped out to make the price sound lower.

The last two occasions when we’ve gone on package holidays, to Madeira and Cyprus, we found it almost as cheap to hire a car as to pay for our return transfers from the airport to our hotel. Having the hire car meant that we could organise our day trips.

Should You Arrange An Airport Transfer?

However if you’re staying in a city, I don’t see much point in having a hire car. Parking spaces can be difficult to find and parking rates high.

On our recent trip to Budapest and Prague, I organised taxi transfers through the hotels at which I was staying. It cost 30 Euro from Budapest Airport to our city centre hotel, and 21 Euro from our Prague city centre hotel to the airport (we took the train from Budapest to Prague). Our taxis were punctual and comfortable, the journey time was a lot shorter than using public transport. I thought that the price paid was good value for money for four passengers.

When I went to Chicago with our son Simon, Blacklane Limousines offered us a complimentary transfer.  I thought that after the 7 hour flight from Edinburgh and getting through US immigration, it’d be great to get to our accommodation quickly. I decided to request a pick up time one and a half hours after our scheduled time of arrival at Chicago O’Hare Airport. The price included a 60 minute wait time after the pick up time. As our flight arrived early, we came out into the arrivals hall twenty minutes before the pick up time. Five minutes later, I received a text and email to say that our chaffeur had arrived.

Deciding whether you should arrange airport transfer will depend on the price, the location of your accommodation and the available alternative routes of transport.

soller rooftops

Why Soller is a Great Base for a Holiday in Majorca

Soller, in the north west of the Spanish island of Majorca, is a great base for a holiday, especially if you like walking.

Why Soller is a Great Base for a Holiday in Majorca

Soller

Soller’s town centre has lots of cafes, bars and restaurants.

Why Soller is a Great Base for a Holiday in Majorca

Soller Town Hall

We did a circular walk from Soller to Fornalutx along minor roads and footpaths.

Why Soller is a Great Base for a Holiday in Majorca

View from Soller to Fornalutx walk

My husband did another couple of walks, from Cuber back to Soller ( I dropped him off at Cuber) and a circular walk to the south west of Soller.

If you want to visit the beach, you need to go to Port de Soller, two miles north west. You can take the old tram from the town centre to the port.

Why Soller is a Great Base for a Holiday in Majorca

Beach at Port de Soller

I’d recommend that you hire a car so that you can take a few day trips. Here are my tips for places to visit.

Lluc Botanic Gardens

The botanic gardens are part of the Santuria de Lluc which has a church and a museum. The garden is free to enter (although donations are welcome). It’s open 10.00 to 13.00 and 15.00 to 18.00.

Puerto Pollensa

Puerto Pollensa lies in a sheltered bay in the north eastern tip of Majorca.

Why Soller is a Great Base for a Holiday in Majorca

Looking across the bay to Alcudia from Puerto Pollensa

Although we visited in late October, it was very warm in Puerto Pollensa. It was a pity that we hadn’t taken our swimming gear with us, as the water looked so tempting.

Deia

I liked Deia so much that I went there twice during our one week holiday. There are great panoramic views from Deia cemetery, where the British writer Robert Graves is buried.

Why Soller is a Great Base for a Holiday in Majorca

Path by stream in Deia

There’s lots of religious street art dotted around the village.

Why Soller is a Great Base for a Holiday in Majorca

You can walk down to the sea. It was really windy when were there, with large waves. No wonder that the restaurant had shut for the season, as diners in the terrace could have been swept out to sea.

Why Soller is a Great Base for a Holiday in Majorca

Crashing waves at Deia

 Valldemossa

The village of Valldemossa nestles in Tramuntana hills. The best known landmark is the 13th century Carthusian monastery, the ‘Real Cartuja de Valldemossa’.

Why Soller is a Great Base for a Holiday in Majorca

Street in Valdemossa

I thought that Valdemossa had some lovely shops, many of which displayed and sold local art and crafts.

Why Soller is a Great Base for a Holiday in Majorca

Shop in Valdemossa

Day Trip to Palma on the Ferrocarril

This train has been running along the scenic troute from Soller to the capital of Palma for more then 100 years. It’s probably a good idea to get one of the first trains departing Soller, particulary in low season, as the last train back to Soller departs in the early evening.

Why Soller is a Great Base for a Holiday in Majorca

Ferrocarril train by Dan Meineck

It’s easy to get to Majorca with various airlines flying from most UK airports, with an average flight time of around 2 hours 30 minutes. It took us around 40 minutes to drive from Palma Airport to Soller.

You could put together you own trip to Majorca, but it’s worth comparing the total price with the cost of a package holiday, especially if you’re taking hold luggage. Cosmos Holidays have some great deals for holidays in Majorca. Booking with a tour operator also means that you are ATOL protected which offers refund or alternative accommodation and travel if the tour operator, airline or accommodation provider goes bust.

bratislava castle at dusk

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Here are my tips for 25 fun things to do in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

Take in the Views from the UFO Observation Tower

The UFO is a restaurant and observation platform at the southern end of the New Bridge.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

The New Bridge and the UFO

It costs 6.50 Euro to get onto the observation deck.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Close up of the UFO

Sample Local Beer at the Castle Brewery

If you get thirsty walking up to Bratislava Castle, then a stop at the Castle Brewery, will provide refreshment. Beers brewed on the premises include a 10% ‘Castle Light’ and a 14% Castle ‘Semi-Dark’ which cost under 2 Euro for half a litre.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Castle Brwery

Listen to Traditional Slovakian Songs

There’s a clock with eighteen bells hanging below the clock face, at the front of the modern shopping centre in Dunajska.  On the hour, the bells play traditional Slovakian songs.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

The bells below the clock

Ride the Old Timer Road Train

You get a good overview of Bratislava by taking a ride on the ‘Old Timer’ road train, which departs from outside the old Slovak National Theatre.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

The Old Timer train in Bratislava

Spot the Mini Gherkin

There’s a mini version of the Gherkin in London at the Eurovea shopping centre.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Visit the Museum of the City History

You can find out more about Bratislava at the Museum of the City History.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

As it was very hot when I was in Bratislava, so I cooled off in a shady seat in the passageway into courtyard where the entrance Museum of City History is located.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

A cool seat

Spot the Wooden Biplane at Bratislava Airport

There’s a wooden biplane, a replica Caproni Ca 33, suspended from the ceiling of the departures terminal at Bratislava Airport.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Biplane at Bratislava Airport

Do Some Lion Spotting

In the square by the new Slovak National Theatre there’s a lion atop a column behind the sculpture of Milan Ratislav Stefanik, an important figure in the struggle for Czechoslovakian independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Milan Ratislav Stefanik sculpture with the lion column behind

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Close up of the lion sculpture

Go Back in Time at the Pharmacy Museum

The Pharmacy Museum is housed in a former pharmacy called ‘At the Red Crayfish’  – which seems a very strange name for a pharmacy.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

The Pharmacy Museum in Bratislava

The Museum is just up from Michael’s Gate. The admission ticket includes a visit to the Museum of Arms in Michael’s Gate tower.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Michael’s Gate tower

Admire the New Slovak National Theatre

The new Slovak National Theatre opened in 2007. Construction started in 1986, but funding issues caused several delays.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

The new Slovak National Theatre

Visit the Capuchin Church

The Capuchin Church, dedicated to St Stephen of Hungary, was built by the Capuchin order of friars who came to Bratislava in 1675.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

The Capuchin Church

Visit Bratislava Castle

Bratislva Castle sits on the Little Carpathians hills, which rise from the banks of the River Danube. For three hundred years, Bratislava was the coronation city of the Hungarian kings, who were crowned in the Castle. The Castle is now managed by the Slovak National Museum, who run exhibitions there.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Bratislava Castle

See Slovakian Modern Art at the Galleria Nedbalka

The Galleria Nedbalka houses 20th century Slovakian art. I liked the fact that the gallery was open from 1pm until 7pm, as most museums and galleries close at 5pm.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Galleria Nedbalka

Get Your Photo Taken on a Penny Farthing

There’s a bicycle rack opposite the Primate’s Palace which has a penny farthing at either side.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

The penny farthing bicycle rack

Have a Seat by the Fountain at Old Market Hall

The Old Market Hall opened in 1910 and was regularly used as a covered market until the 1960s. It has since been used a film studio and exhibition hall. There are seats by the fountain outside Old Market Hall.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Old Market Hall

Taste Wine in Hviezdoslav Square

There’s a wine tasting kiosk in Hviezdoslav Square

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Wine tasting kiosk

Have Fun at the Coronation Festival

The Coronation Festival which takes place in June, features a costumed re-inactment of a coronation, including a procession from Bratislava Castle to the Old Town. In 2015, the 1712 coronation of Charles III will be commemorated over the weekend 26- 28 June.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Crown displayed in the pre-2014 Coronation Festival exhibition in the Primate’s Palace

Admire the Copper Doors in Hlavne Namestie

I thought that these were some of the most beautiful doors I’d ever seen.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Copper doors in Hlavne Namestie

See Some Budget Ballet

Amanda recommends seeing some budget ballet at the old National Theatre in Bratislava. I had a look a ticket prices and they ranged from 4 to 20 Euro.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

The old Slovak National Theatre

Visit the Trinitarian Church

Construction of the Baroque style Trinitarian Church started in 1717. It’s a simliar design to St Peter’s in Vienna. From 1939 to 1994, the Slovak National Council met here. in 1992, the passing of the declaration of Slovakia’s independence took place in the building.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

The Trinitarian Church

Admire the Glass Sculptures in Gorkeho

Above the grand entrance of Palais Motesicky on the northern side of Gorkeho, behind the old Slovak National Theatre, you’ll find a cluster of glass flower sculptures, by Czech designer Borek Sipek.  I thought that they looked at their best when illuminated after dark.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

The illuninated glass sculptures

Take a Cruise on the River Danube

There are lots of options for Danube cruises in Bratislava. You can take a city sightseeing tour, visit Devin Castle, the Danubina Meulensteen Art Museum, or take a day trip to Vienna.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Cruising the Danube

Be Dwarfed by the Monument to the National Slovak Uprising

The Monument to the National Slovak Uprising commemorates the attempt to depose the pro-Nazi government of Jozef Tiso in 1944, during World War Two. At the end of the war in 1945, the Soviet Army took control of Slovakia.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Browse the Street Markets

There’s a small market comprising of red kiosks close to Hlavne Namestie. It’s attractive even when shut, as the stalls are adorned with illustrations and information about the city.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Red market stall kiosks near Hlavne Namestie

There’s also a small market in front of the old Slovak National Theatre.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Market stalls near the old Slovak National Theatre

Buy Slovak Folk Arts and Crafts

Some of the nicest locally made souvenirs I saw were in a store in Hlavne Namestie.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Slovak Folk Arts and Crafts shop

Street Art

There’s plenty of street art in Bratislava. My favourie batch was behind St Martin’s Cathedral.

25 Things to Do in Bratislava

Street art in Bratislava

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my travel tips for things to do in Bratislava.

You can also read our tips on ten things to do in Slovakia.

hotel meeting room

Reducing Business Travel Stress

While travelling frequently for work may sound exciting, it can also be quite stressful. The InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) have come up with eight tips on reducing business travel stress. Below are their tips and additional suggestions from me to help you arrive calm and in a productive frame of mind.

Reducing Business Travel Stress

Select a Conveniently Located Hotel

I like to stay at a hotel within a 30 minute walk to the meeting/event which I’m attending. This helps me ensure that I arrive on time, as I’m not having to traverse a city at rush hour.

Make Time to Relax and Exercise

I’ve enjoyed leisure time in swimming pools and spas at hotels. As I’m not a fan of gyms, I try to book a hotel which is close to a park to go for a walk, or even sit outside to work if the weather’s good.

Create a Travel Checklist

I’m already a list convert. ticking off the items on my list as I pack  to ensure that I don’t forget to take anything with me.

Reducing Business Travel Stress

Pre-book Your Taxi

Knowing that there is a taxi waiting to whisk you to your final destination can be reassuring, especially after a long journey. The last couple of times I’ve booked taxi transfers from the airport, I arranged them through reception at the hotel at which I was staying. I thought this was safer than pre-booking on an unfamilair website or waiting in a long queue at the airport.

Check That Your Hotel Offers Free WiFi

I always try to book at hotel which offers free WiFi. However, I also like to have the backup of mobile broadband just in case there are any problems with the hotel WiFi. This also has the advantage that I can get online when I’m out and about. As most of my travel is in Europe, I use Vodafone’s EuroTraveller, where I pay £3 a day to use my UK plan abroad.

Take Spare Clothing and Toiletries in a Carry On Bag

When flying I generally travel with only a carry on bag. If I do check in hold luggage, I prefer to take my toiletries in my carry on bag in case of leakage. I also take a capsule wardrobe on board with me, just in case my suitcase goes astray. I find that these tubes of milk served with tea and coffee are very hard to open without squirting the contents all over yourself, so a spare top may well be required.

Ensure Your Business Travel Wallet is Well Stocked

I think this is one where we ladies have a head start on the guys as most of us routinely carry all sorts of handy items such as wet wipes, plasters and painkillers in our handbags.

Reducing Business Travel Stress

Keep on Top of Expenses and Bills

One of the first things I do upon returning home from a business trip is to pull together all my receipts and work out my expenses. IHG offer a handy secure online account management system for business travel which avoids so much faffing about with paper receipts.

This article is brought to you in association with IHG Business Advantage.

Brittany Ferries

Ferry Versus Plane for Holidays in France

Brittany Ferries’ infographic highlights some of the advantages of travelling from the UK to France by ferry versus plane.

The comparison is based on a holiday to the Loire Valley for a family of two adults and two kids. The journey by ferry would entail driving your own car to the UK ferry port, the ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Caen and the drive to the Loire Valley. The journey by plane would entail driving to your UK departure airport, flying to Nantes and picking up a hire car at the airport to drive to the final destination.

Check in time for Brittany Ferries is 45 minutes before departure, compared to two hours for flights. Travelling by ferry would avoid the drive to the airport, transfer from the airport car park to the terminal buidling and queueing up to drop off your hold luggage and to get through airport security.

To me, the biggest advantage of travelling with your own car and crossing the Channel by ferry is that there are no luggage restrictions. I’m geting fed up of squeezing all my luggage into one carry on case to avoid hold luggage fees, bag drop off queues and waits at the luggage carousel on arrival at the destination. Never mind the confusion over the differing maximum dimensions and weight of that cary on suitcase between the airlines.

You can fit in loads of luggage in your car, even in a supermini. This is a real boon, especially when travelling with kids. I remember how much gear I needed to take even for a day out, never mind a holiday. If your kids are small, you can use the foot wells at the back seats as extra storage space.


Ferry Versus Plane for Holidays in France

Image source: Brittany Ferries – Ferry VS Plane to France

It’s easier to keep kids entertained on a ferry than a plane. A ferry offers more space to move around.  When you’re on a plane you can be wedged into your seat, with a baby on your knee, unable to even walk up and down the aisle during trolley service. There’s the option to pay for a cabin on the ferry if you want some private space. Click here for information on the various Brittany Ferries routes to France.

I’ve never had a problem getting a seat next to my travelling companian(s) on ferry. With most airlines, you now have to pay an additional fee to select specific seats; the free allocated seats don’t guarantee that everyone in the party will sit together.

Another advantage for me is the free WiFi on board on Brittany Ferries. Although I can get online through Vodafone Euro Traveller, it costs me £3 a day to use my UK allowance, which only includes 1.5GB of data per month.

It can be a real hassle picking up a hire car when you arrive at your destination airport. There’s usually a queue, when all you want to do is get going to your final destination.

Not having to pay for car hire could make your holiday cheaper. You need to watch our for fairly hefty excesses, payable if the rental car is damaged of stotlen,  even on supposedly all inclusive prices with car hire firms.

Diesel is cheaper than unleaded petrol in France. As we have a diesel car, we’d be able to take advantage of this. Whereas, it’s usually more expensive to rent a diesel than a petrol car, so the additional cost of renting a diesel car would negate the savings made on cheaper diesel.

If you’re thinking of taking your car to Europe, check that your car insurance offers EU cover as standard, some insurance companies charge extra for this. Our M&S premier car insurance also includes European breakdown cover.

war horse

Why You Should See War Horse When You Visit London

On my most recent trip to London, I decided to look for some cheap theatre tickets. A lot of the lower priced tickets, starting at £10 for a midweek evening performance, were for shows which didn’t receive the greatest of reviews.

When I found a ticket for ‘War Horse‘, which gets rave reviews, priced at £17.50 for a restricted view seat on lastminute.com, I thought it was a good deal. I also thought it appropriate to see a show based on the First World War, as it’s the centenary of the beginning of WWI this year.

Why You Should See War Horse When You Visit London

Although I’d read about the wonderful life size horse puppets, they were absolutely amazing. The ‘horses’ movements and behaviour, e.g. their ears pricking up and changing direction, their play fighting and breathing, was so realistic.

Why You Should See War Horse When You Visit London

I did wonder what the view of the stage would be like from my cheap seat. I didn’t know my seat number until I picked up my ticket at the box office just before the performance. I was in the first row of seats in the balcony, with a a side view of the stage. The restricted view was because of the safety rail on the balcony. However, by leaning forward slightly, my view was uninterupted. You can pay up to £90 for a seat right in front of the stage.

So if you’re visiting London, go to see ‘War Horse'; it’s an outstanding show.

best things to do with kids in uk brid of prey

The Best Things to do in the UK with Kids

If you’re after a slightly more purse-friendly holiday this year, or simply just want something a little closer to home, there are loads of places you can go in the UK that certainly won’t disappoint when it comes to keeping the whole family happy.

If you’re looking specifically for great things to do with the kids without the 9 hour flight to Disney Land Florida, or without having to update the passports, we’ve handpicked some of our favourite family activities and adventures the UK has to offer.

The Best Things to do in the UK with Kids

Museums

Depending on what you class as a museum, there are over 2,500 museums in the UK alone. Therefore you’d not exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing one that will keep your family entertained. From interactive discovery museums such as W5 in Belfast and Eureka! in Halifax, to more traditional and classic museums to inspire, such as the Museum of Childhood in London (pictured below), there’s something for all kids, no matter how big or small! Help your child channel their inner artist too, in one of the many art galleries across Britain.

The Best Things to do in the UK with Kids

Theme Parks

If your family thrives off adrenaline and excitement, a theme park holiday, or at least a day dedicated to thrills and rides is sure to get their heart’s racing. Some of our favourites include Alton Towers in Staffordshire, LEGOLAND in Windsor, Thorpe Park in Surrey and Blackgang Chine on the Isle of Wight.

The Best Things to do in the UK with Kids

Zoos and Aquariums

The UK is great for animal lovers, with loads of different zoos, aquariums and safari parks to show your little ones some of the wonders of our animal world. Edinburgh Zoo is one of the best stops in Scotland as it is the largest wildlife attraction in the country. As for England, Chester Zoo and Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire are some of the best ones. For a completely different wildlife experience, The Magic of Life Butterfly House in Aberystwyth is a great choice.

Beaches

If you want a beach whilst on your holiday, who said you had to travel far?! The UK is home to thousands of beaches, and whilst we can’t promise 40 degree heat, if you time it right you’ll definitely enjoy some sun and without the pain of a flight. The kids will no doubt love a few nights away in a lovely little bed and breakfast as you all head out with your buckets and spades. With companies like UK Breakaways, you can even opt for a hotel located right next to one of the beaches for a truly relaxing short break. Some of our favourite beach locations include Cornwall, Great Yarmouth and Dorset.

The Best Things to do in the UK with Kids

…and for something completely different

If your kids really love something completely different to what usual holidays consist of, amaze them at some of the attractions the UK has to offer that vary from the norm. From play centres to cave tours, wax work museums and roller rinks, adventure playgrounds (such as the Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens pictured below) and treasure hunts, you’re never far away from something to put a smile on their faces.

The Best Things to do in the UK with Kids

Trip Planning: Short Breaks Versus Longer Holidays

Most people feel that they don’t have enough paid holidays from work. The legal minimum paid holiday entitlement for full-time workers in the UK is 5.6 weeks, which is 28 days. So how do you make the most of that annual leave? Do you go for more short breaks or reserve it for a couple of longer trips?

Trip Planning: Short Breaks Versus Longer Holidays

Personally, I’m not keen on trips when I’ll be abroad for fewer than three nights. At least with this length of trip, I’ll be in my destination for longer than I’ll be travelling. Even for a UK short break, I prefer a minimum of two nights.

Although it gives you another night without using up annual leave, going away over bank holiday weekends is likely to be expensive. Some employers may insist that you take bank holidays off, which gives you less flexibility in your trip planning. One of our son’s employers ignores bank holidays, which suits him.

If your employer offers flexi-time you may be able to tag on an extra day to your time off. Even taking a half day off could mean that you don’t have to be in at work until lunchtime if you have a late inbound flight on your return.

Short trips abroad are more doable with direct flights. Whereas, if you have to leave enough time for flight connections, especially with the budget airlines who won’t put you on a later flight free of charge if your first flight is delayed, this eats into too much of your trip. The flight timings also impact a lot on short trips. For example, if you’re going to have to get up at 3am to catch an early morning flight, you might not feel like doing much when you arrive at your destination.

Trip Planning: Short Breaks Versus Longer Holidays

Frequent short breaks can be more expensive, as you’ll be paying more in transport costs.

Going to a long haul destination isn’t going to be so viable on a short break, as the flight will be longer and more expensive. If I went somewhere like Australia, I’d like to go for a minimum of  4 weeks, but then some employers aren’t keen to give you more than two consecutive weeks off work.

You may have the option to buy extra holiday time. Our other son can exchange up to three weeks pay for holiday. Last year, he took two weeks extra off work. However this year he reduced that to one week extra holiday, as he didn’t get a pay rise.

Some employers may offer an longer period unpaid leave, especially during a quiet period.

While one of the advantages of self employment means you have no restrictions on how much time you take off work, the disadvantage is that time off isn’t paid. However, I could run my online publishing buisness anywhere that had a decent broadband connection.

If you plan an extended trip during which you intend to work, you need to look into International medical and health insurance for expats, visa and the tax situation regarding earnings made in another country.