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.
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.
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.
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.
Crashing waves at Deia
The village of Valldemossa nestles in Tramuntana hills. The best known landmark is the 13th century Carthusian monastery, the ‘Real Cartuja de Valldemossa’.
Street in Valdemossa
I thought that Valdemossa had some lovely shops, many of which displayed and sold local art and crafts.
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.
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.
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.
The New Bridge and the UFO
It costs 6.50 Euro to get onto the observation deck.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Visit the Museum of the City History
You can find out more about Bratislava at the Museum of the City History.
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.
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.
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.
Milan Ratislav Stefanik sculpture with the lion column behind
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Old Market Hall
Taste Wine in Hviezdoslav Square
There’s a wine tasting kiosk in Hviezdoslav Square
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Red market stall kiosks near Hlavne Namestie
There’s also a small market in front of the old Slovak National Theatre.
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.
Slovak Folk Arts and Crafts shop
There’s plenty of street art in Bratislava. My favourie batch was behind St Martin’s Cathedral.
Street art in Bratislava
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my travel tips for things to do in Bratislava.
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.
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.
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.
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’ 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.
It’s easier to keep kids entertained on a ferry than a plane. A ferry offers more space to move around.Â 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 Â£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,Â 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.
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 Â£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 Â£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.
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.
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 Â£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.
If youâ€™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 wonâ€™t disappoint when it comes to keeping the whole family happy.
If youâ€™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, weâ€™ve handpicked some of our favourite family activities and adventures the UK has to offer.
Depending on what you class as a museum, there are over 2,500 museums in the UK alone. Therefore youâ€™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), thereâ€™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.
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 heartâ€™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.
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.
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 canâ€™t promise 40 degree heat, if you time it right youâ€™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.
…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, youâ€™re never far away from something to put a smile on their faces.
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?
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.
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’re keen to travel more, then you need to find ways to save up the cash to pay for your trip(s). You’ll either need to spend less or earn more. If you can manage both, all the better.Â Below are my tips to help you save money for travel.
Set a Target
You need to have a financial target; whether you plan to take more frequent tips from our home base or a longer trip.Â Do some research on the cost of your proposed trip(s) to give you an idea of how much you’ll need to save.
Cut down on takeaways; buy ready-made meals to heat up at home or cook from scratch.
Have fewer drinks when you’re out. Have a glass of tap water between drinks, or make your drink last longer.
Shop around for the best deals; use price comparison sites to find the best deals for insurance, gas and electricity.
Shop more at discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl. I find that Home Bargains are great for cheap brand name food and household items.
Look at creative ways to save money such as getting to grips with DIY,. thereby saving money on tradesman, learning to sew.and hosting a swishing (clothes swapping) party.
Draw up a monthly budget to see how much you can afford to put into your travel find every month after covering your living expenses.
Get the Highest Rate of Interest on Your Savings
Open a savings account specifically for your travel fund. Set up a standing order from your current account for that monthly sum to be automatically transferred into the savings account. Find the savings account with the highest possible rate of interest. If your trip takes place in more than a year, you could get a guaranteed rate of interest in a fixed rate savings account. The highest rate I could find for on a one year fixed rate account was 2.0% from BM Savings. You can get some good rates of interest are in regular savings account; the Nationwide pay 2.5% if you deposit between Â£500- Â£1,000 a month. The Santander 123 Current Account pays 3% interest if your balance is between Â£3,000 – Â£20,000. There is a Â£2 a month fee but I more that cover this by cashback earned on household bills paid by direct debit. You need to stay in credit for this account to be worthwhile.
Â Use Your Cash ISA Allowance
In the current tax year you can put up to Â£5,760 in a tax-free Cash ISA. If you don’t have to pay tax on your savings, they will grow more quickly. Virgin Bank is offering 1.75% on their instant access Cash ISA. If you hold a main current account with the Nationwide, their Flexclusive ISA Issue 5 is paying 2%.
Save Up Credit Card Cashback
I get 3% cashback on my Aqua Rewards Credit Card on a spend of up to Â£3,330 per year and 1% cashbacl on my Barclaycard Mastercard. As long as you are buying things that you’d buy anyway and you pay back your credit card in full every month, it’s free money which can bolster your travel fund.
Increase Your Income
Take on a second job; not only will you earn more money but you’ll have less free time in which to spend your cash. You may be able to find a temporary job in a store in the run up to Christmas or find some bar work. You could also make money online by setting up a site or blog. Don’t think that you can just throw up a site, add some affiliate links and the money will pour in. Choose a topic in which you’re interested and knowledgeable. The advantage of this is that you fit in the work when it suits you from home.
It’s all to easy to get fed up with trying to spend less and save money and be tempted into a spending spree. You need to stay focused on your trip and how much your enjoy your travels.
With air travel sometimes being more of a hassle than a pleasure, the ‘Smarter Way to Travel’ game highlights the benefits of travelling by DFDS Seaways. The game emphasises that although ferry may not be the fastest way to travel, it’s out ahead on entertainment and relaxation per mile. There are four different European travel scenarios for playing; as family, solo traveller, couple or group.
I tried out the ‘Smarter Way to Travel’ for couples. I certainly agree that it’d be almost impossible to have a romantic meal on a plane. For a start, you can hardly move your arms to cut up your food with being in danger of either getting a bash from a passenger or a member of staff passing in the aisle or the passenger sitting next to you getting pretty narked as you elbow them for the umpteenth time.
One of the things that I like best about travelling by ferry is the ability to move around freely.Â I hate having to mainly stay in my seat for a few hours when flying. Weather permitting, you can go for a walk around the deck on a ferry to get some fresh air. I don’t like being a in a pressurised cabin for hours.
We don’t have any pets, but I can see that being able to take your pet on the ferry, which costs from Â£19 per crossing, would be an advantage. It would also save on kennel or cattery charges. You wouldn’t be worried about how well your pet was being cared for in your absence . Your pet would need to have an EU Pet Passport to travel on a ferry. It was quite funny that ferrets were specifically mentioned when I read the terms and conditions for pet travel. Do you know anyone who takes their ferret on holiday with them?
We did the DFDS Portsmouth to Le Havre crossing as a family with our sons when going on a holiday to a caravan park near Deauville in Normandy. We took the overnight crossing from Portsmouth paying for a four berth cabin, so that we could get some sleep.Â I doubt if I’d have slept at all on a reclining seat on the ferry. It cost approximately Â£60 extra for the cabin. That was around what we would’ve paid for a hotel for the night, but the advantage was that we were doing part of the journey while comfy in bed.
The big advantage of being able to take our own car was that we could take lots of luggage. Also, it was much cheaper to have own car compared to paying for car hire for our ten days in France. Our motor insurance covered us for trips of up to 30 days in Europe and European breakdown cover was included in our car insuranceÂ However, when we had a flat tyre on the drive back to the ferry, it was quicker for my husband to change it. than to wait for the breakdown patrol to arrive. The worst aspect was taking all our luggage out of the boot to reach the spare wheel.