All-in-one Orlando

Orlando has been a regular favourite for Britons for years, and for good reason. Sun, shopping, adventure and relaxation – Orlando, Florida is an all-in-one kind of destination.

It’s no surprise that it’s such a popular destination. Orlando offers something for the young, the old and due to the warm weather, you’re almost guaranteed sunshine to do it in. Regular and affordable flights are in abundance and we were able to get a great deal for flights to Orlando, thanks to its consistent popularity.

Theme Parks

My first thought was a stereotypical one: Disney World is in Orlando and that’s why everyone goes there. In fact, I was wrong. The theme park is a huge pull for the state but it isn’t the only reason to visit.

Also, most of the visitors stay in the vicinity of the park, which isn’t as central as I originally thought. The theme park is actually near Lake Buena Vista. It’s a must-see for families and the young at heart, Orlando has. But none of the theme parks are in town. Universal Studios, Sea Wold, Gatorland and Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not are all outside of Orlando. They’re all accessible and all worth a visit, but if you’re not up for it there’s a range of other activities for the 52 million tourists that visit annually.

Golf

I was surprised at just how many golf bags came off the plane. Yours will be well looked after, Orlando knows how to welcome golfers. Hire a house and a van and pack your friends and clubs in the back and hit one of the many golf courses. There is something for every handicap and the fantastic climate is a golfer’s best friend. From stunning private resorts like Ginn Reunion Golf Resort – designed by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, to the infamous Grand Cyress Resort, you could golf for days.

Shops

The Florida Mall is the largest in the state and it has everything you can imagine. The Mall at Millenia is Orlando’s most upscale and beautiful mall. It’s part of a new area that is seeing development and is worth a visit.

Parks

Everything grows in Orlando so it’s very green and there’s lots of nature around every corner. Be sure to spend time at Lake Eola Park, located at the centre of the city. Enjoy the music and drama in the amphitheatre or the farmers market on Sundays. It’s one of the best spots to view the city. Take a dip in the free-flowing natural spring At Kelly Park, Rock Springs or visit the University of Central Florida Arboretum. Both have no admission fee and both are a relaxing day morning or afternoon out.

And being America – the ultimate social meeting place – you’ll find every culture under the sun. And boy is there lots of sun. We had a wonderful time meeting new people, visiting more of the other attractions outside of the theme parks and we’ll certainly be back.

Next time with golf clubs.

Springtime is the right time for a Roman holiday

Rome’s ancient beauty is rarely more stunning than in the spring. For a few brief weeks each year the temperatures hover within a realm of lovely numbers and the heat of the sun brings new life to everything and everyone in the city.

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Rome hotels start to fill up in spring but there aren’t nearly as many tourists as will be swarming the city by June. The food is fresh, the flowers are gorgeous and the people watching is spectacular. Here are just a few of the reasons that the best time to visit Rome is in the spring.

 

Artichokes

Spring time is artichoke season in Rome. Roman artichokes (carciofi romaneschi) only grow from February to May meaning that when they appear on menus during other parts of the year they are imported from elsewhere. Sampling some freshly prepared fried (alla guidia) or braised artichokes with olive oil, garlic and herbs (alla romana) are the most delicious and authentic ways to indulge in this fleeting harvest.

 

Beaches

There are some really great beaches within an hour of the city. During the summer months beaches are packed (especially at weekends) and enjoying the sun and sand is made somewhat more difficult with so many strangers attempting to do the same.

Spring is the perfect time to visit the beach as the sun is warm enough to spread out on the sand (even if the water is still a bit cold) and there are far fewer people to share it with.

 

Flowers

The Spanish Steps are one of Rome’s most popular attractions and while it is delightful to stop and smell the roses, spring on the steps means Azaleas (and lots of them).

Every May, the city puts out buckets of blooming azaleas on the Spanish Steps. Once the blossoms have come and gone the pots do the same and are carted away to make room for the resident roses and cheap toy vendors. While it’s sad to see them go, they are a sight to behold mid-blossom and well worth a visit.

 

Gelato

Let’s face it – there’s never a wrong time for gelato. But the great thing about spring time is that gelato is no longer seen as an ‘excusable’ indulgence during colder days, it legitimately feels right. Sampling a few scoops of your favourite flavours while strolling through the spring streets of Rome is perhaps the most enjoyable experience possible. Sunny spring days were meant for gelato.

 

Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it is best experienced between the cold winter days and the boiling summer nights. Spring brings about new life for the city and that makes it such an incredible time to visit. Before the busy summer crowds and the after shorter days of autumn and winter, springtime is the perfect window for the perfect holiday in Rome.

How to plan for family vacations

Family vacations can be fun when family members are included to be part of a journey. Travelling together raises a fair amount of challenges and travelling abroad requires even more amount of planning. There are lots of details to consider when you plan for a trip that there is a checklist which one needs to follow in order to make the family vacation fruitful. A well planned vacation will go smoothly and will be more enjoyable than an unplanned one. Family vacations are a great time to bond with the family and can create lifetime memorable experiences. Planning is vital for a successful family vacation. Let us have a look at how to plan a family vacation

Firstly, Plan in advance before the trip. This can be fun process as discussing and planning on destinations and activities to do together would make it fun and exciting for your family. Planning can give you better possibilities for good deals. If you spend time surfing on net then you can find lots of family travel deals which are fantastic offers which are available due to last minute cancellations. Spend time researching on hotels and flights for your vacation. You can choose to go for an inexpensive flight and spend more money on hotels and sightseeing. You can collect all information from a person who has already visited the location because he can give you tips on how to make the journey and family vacation more fun and exciting. You can also give your kids a budget for themselves. They can save a part of their allowance in order to prepare for family vacation. This will make them develop responsibility and boost their spirits for the upcoming vacation.

Secondly, ensure everybody has their say in the planning process. Planning the vacation should be something where everyone should be involved. Process should be enjoyable for everyone. At the same time there should be any fights when the planning process happens as a fight would loom over a vacation and there will not be any fun in the process. Ask everyone on vacation dates and budgets and then for destination suggestions. After presenting all the options, narrow down the choices to 3-4 choices only. If the choices are difficult to choose, then list the pros and cons of each vacation choice.

Thirdly, look for locations which are family oriented. Ski vacations, beach vacation and cruises are popular family oriented vacations which has lots to do for everyone. You can choose to book your beach vacation from many agents which have various options for your great family vacation. There are also great resorts for small children which offer activities for them. Once you have taken an input from everybody in the family then you can decide on a destination which offers everything which your family needs. If you like hiking, surfing or skiing then consider places where such activities can be participated in. It is important to record a trip as you would not want to regret when you are back that you don’t have a record of the trip you had taken.

Top 5 best beaches in Turkey

Turkey boasts over 8,000 kilometres of coastline and over 383 award-winning blue flag beaches, so it’s no wonder that it is one of the most popular sun holiday destinations in Europe all year round.

Pristine white sand beaches can be found all along the Aegean, Mediterranean, Marmara and Black Sea coasts of Turkey. From bustling coastline resorts to quiet, secluded stretches of sand, there’s a beach for everyone, whether you want to get away from it all or enjoy resort amenities and water sports.

There’s also plenty of bargain holidays to make the most of, and Uk travellers can escape the questionable weather of the UK and be sunning themselves on a beach within four and a half hours from most UK airports. For more information visit this website.

Here are five of Turkey’s best beaches:

Oludeniz Beach


Oludeniz Beach, along what is known as the ‘Turquoise Coast’, is arguably the most famous beach destination in Turkey. Situated near Fethiye, or the Blue Lagoon, it is a postcard-perfect crescent of sand, leading into impossibly turquoise ocean. With gentle, lapping waves and warm waters, it is an ideal bathing spot for all the family. It also has a lovely promenade backed by restaurants and bars, for sunny afternoon strolls.

Patara Beach
Located near Kalkan, Patara Beach is another popular spot for sun-loving travellers. One of the longest beaches in the Mediterranean at approximately 18km, it features undulating sand dunes, crystal-clear waters and is a protected area, due to the nesting of turtles on the beach. There’s also beautiful surrounding landscapes and ancient ruins to explore.

Iztuzu Beach
This long stretch of golden sand is located near Dalyan, in the Ortaca district of the Province of Mugla in southwestern Turkey. The beach is a narrow spit of land, which forms a natural barrier between the fresh water delta of the Dalyan river and the Mediterranean. It is one of the main breeding grounds for loggerhead sea turtles in the Mediterranean and is therefore often dubbed “Turtle Beach”. Not as touristy as some of the other beaches along the coast, it’s a great spot for all the family.

Butterfly Valley Beach
Butterfly Valley Beach is arguably Turkey’s most photogenic beach, situated between two towering cliffs. It can be reached by boat from Oludeniz and Fethiye, as well as down a rocky path from the main road, for the more adventurous. It is  called Butterfly Valley Beach due to the thousands of butterflies that live in the colourful flora and fauna behind the beach. The best part is that it feels secret and there aren’t any built up buildings in sight. A photographer’s dream!

Ovabuku
Situated in the Datca peninsula, in a line of bays stretching from Hayitbuku and Kizilbuk, Ovabuku is one of the most stunning beaches in Turkey. A small but perfectly formed stretch of shingle beach surrounded by quaint restaurants, it is a lesser-known beach and perfect for those that want to get away from the crowds and bustling resorts.

What You Should Do in Budapest

If you’re looking for a bargain on your next holiday, you should consider a trip to Budapest where you can delight in a thermal bath, go shopping, or dine in some of the most wonderful restaurants in the world.  You can enjoy exciting nightlife, walk through the historic district, or take a guided tour so that you won’t miss anything that the city has to offer.  If you are bored chances are you haven’t done your research or you just aren’t looking in the right places for a memorable holiday experience.  Let’s take a look at some of the activities that you should do in Budapest.

Thermal Baths

Are you stressed, frustrated, or just plain tired?  If you answered yes, then perhaps you should enjoy a thermal bath where you can unwind, rest your feet, and rejuvenate for tomorrow’s adventures.  Find the style of bath that suits you best and go to experience that one; you may want to visit the locations personally to get a first-hand view of the amenities that the thermal bath offers to you as a weary tourist.

Let’s Go Shopping

You’ll have a plethora of shopping options in Budapest; from the mall to unique shops to flea markets you’ll find just what you need for the perfect gift to take home.  Visiting Vaci Street is a must to begin your marathon of shopping; you’ll meet plenty of locals and visitors here who can direct you to the perfect area for your purchases.

Nightlife

If you enjoy a nice cocktail in the evening or prefer dancing the night away, Budapest has a dynamic nightlife that is filled with bars and social clubs for your enjoyment.  You can research the venues on the Internet or ask your concierge for a suggestion based on your likes and dislikes.  Also locals can steer you to unique clubs with a flavour of the Budapest culture.  Be sure to use common sense and go with friends instead of going alone in a new environment.

Cafes or Coffee houses

Enjoying a perfectly brewed cup of coffee in a local cafe is an excellent way of learning what to do in Budapest and what to see while you’re visiting.  You’ll find a myriad of locations that serve your favourite blends along with pastries and other goodies to polish off your shopping trip or end your perfect day of sightseeing.

To be assured of seeing and doing everything that interests you, booking one of the Budapest Tours can help you to find your way around the area and expose you to activities and sites that you may want to go back and explore further on your own.  You’ll be able to ask questions and take advantage of the knowledge of your tour guide which is very helpful when in a new location or city.  You may also want to book some day trips and excursions outside the city of Budapest itself so that you’ll have a wider understanding and appreciation of the countryside.  Plan before you go so that your holiday will be the best one that you’ve ever taken.

Image courtesy of:  FreeDigitalPhotos.net adamr

Does the traditional Christmas still exist?

For most of us in the UK, a traditional Christmas means sitting around the dining room table tucking into a hearty turkey roast before collapsing on the sofa to squeeze in as many mince pies and chocolates as is humanly possible.

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But, that’s not the only option. Actually, I’ve noticed that a lot of people are moving away from this kind of Christmas and making their own traditions – often which involving going overseas in search of a little sunshine and relaxation.

If you’re considering shaking up your seasonal celebrations this year, you can find a little inspiration for doing so below.

1) A Christmas cruise

My number one recommendation is going on a Christmas cruise. Why does this make the top spot, I hear you ask? Well, I think the major reason is how special it makes your time away – Christmas cruises typically feature loads of great festive events (though you can, of course, give them a miss if you’re hoping to get away from Christmas entirely!). Plus, luxury is the order of the day, which means you can completely relax and indulge yourself.

Cruise directly from the UK (there are plenty of Christmas cruises from Liverpool in 2013) and you’ll be able to enjoy every single moment of your getaway, avoiding the hassle of airport queuing and long flights. And of course, you’ll also be able to escape to the sun, with the sun-drenched Canary Islands being a popular Christmas cruise destination.

Visit islands like Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Tenerife to enjoy the beautiful beaches, water sports and natural attractions, while you’ll also be able to visit places like Madeira en route.

2) A winter holiday

Another option is to book a standard winter holiday to the Canary Islands instead – a good alternative if you’re not into cruising (though if you’ve never been on one before and simply assume you won’t like it, I’d thoroughly recommend ignoring your preconceptions and giving it a go – there are few people who don’t like it once they’ve tried it!).

This will give you all the sunshine of a cruise, though of course you won’t get to travel to lots of different places (unless you arrange all the transfers and stays in several hotels yourself). You also won’t get all the Christmas events on the cruise itself, though as a way of countering that, you can make sure you’re aware of local festivities that are going on instead.

3) A cosy staycation

My final suggestion is a staycation. The obvious difference with this one is that you won’t be bathed in sunshine – but that’s not what all of us are looking for anyway! A staycation is, I think, a really good choice if you’re just looking for a breather away from the Christmas rush back home but don’t want to head overseas.

If you’re planning to go away with the family in tow, you might want to consider booking a cottage rather than a hotel for that cosy feel – though it’s worth remembering that you may well end up cooking Christmas dinner as usual! If you’re worried about that, make sure you do plenty of research in advance and book a table at a local restaurant.

A staycation like this is also quite an affordable way of giving the family a Christmas treat, especially as you can stay in and cook whenever you please, and eat out when it comes to big celebrations.

 

A guide to planning an alternative family holiday

There’s no reason why you have to stick to the same tried and tested family holiday model every time you go away – especially if you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous. We’re going to give you some tips about how to plan an action-packed family break, as well as suggest a few options that are open to you.

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Start planning…

Firstly, it’s best to plan your holiday as a family, because this will help get the kids really excited about where you’re going and what you’re doing – a real blessing if you’ve got disinterested teenagers.

Secondly, to give you peace of mind when you’re arranging your break – and to make it easier for you – it’s best to go on an organised tour. This doesn’t mean you’ll be restricted in terms of what you do; in fact, it could open doors that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

The companies that offer adventurous family trips have extensive knowledge of the destinations they serve, which means they can introduce you to parts that you may not find on your own, as well as having connections with a host of activity providers who can make sure your holiday is full of thrills and spills.

Where to go

When you’ve taken the decision to be adventurous with your family break, the world really is your oyster. There’s such a wide variety of places to explore when you open up to the possibility of going off the beaten track. The following are just a few of our picks that we think are particularly good for families.

Borneo

Borneo in Malaysia is a wonderful choice if your children love wildlife, as there are some amazing reserves and sanctuaries on the island. Of course, Borneo is most famous for its orang utans, which you can get unbelievably close to at a rescue centre in Sepilok.

You can also go on jungle walks to see some more of the local wildlife, such as the proboscis monkeys that live in this part of the world, or even take a trip down the river to explore a little further afield. Mum and dad will certainly appreciate the chance to unwind in the natural hot springs in Poring, while you can all round off your trip with a bit of rest and relaxation on one of Borneo’s beautiful beaches.

Costa Rica

For plenty of action and adventure, Costa Rica is a fantastic choice. It boasts a wide variety of landscapes, including volcanoes, rainforests and beaches, while it’s become something of a mecca for travellers looking for an action-packed break.

On a family getaway here you can go white water rafting, fly through the rainforest canopy on a zip line, canoe along the coast, cycle around a volcano and go horse riding with the local cowboys. There’s certainly a lot to keep people of all ages occupied, making it a fantastic choice for families with older children who’ve got an adventurous streak.

Gozo

You don’t have to fly halfway around the world to find action and adventure, though, as there are lots of places in Europe that have plenty to offer on that front. One such example is the island of Gozo, which is part of Malta.

The emphasis here is on coastal activities, with kayaking in sea caves, mountain biking along coastal trails, abseiling and climbing on cliffs, and snorkelling in the warm Mediterranean waters that surround the isle among the things you can look forward to.

 

The History of Afternoon Tea: A Truly English Tradition

Next time you settle into your favourite armchair with a nice cuppa, you really ought to raise your cup to thank the seventh Duchess of Bedford. In the early ninteenth century, when tea was growing in popularity, the meals of the day were breakfast and a mid-evening dinner. Not surprisingly, the poor duchess complained of a “sinking feeling” at around 4 pm or 5 pm every day. A pot of tea, sandwiches and cake, taken in the privacy of her boudoir, soon put paid to hunger pangs. As time went on, she began to receive visitors to share her routine at Woburn Abbey. On her return to London, she sent out invitation cards, and other society hostesses followed suit.

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Charles II’s Portguese wife, Catherine de Braganza was addicted to the brew, and is said to have introduced the product to the court in 1662. We have been drinking it for over 350 years, but it was an established favourite in China for centuries before that. If you want to know how many cups we drink a day now, check out the daily counter on the website of the UK Tea Council – it generally reaches 9 figures by mid-evening! The official statistic, in case you can’t wait until midnight, is 165,000,000 per day.

The British & Irish Food website has suggestions of what to serve for your afternoon tea, and how to prepare it, with several scrumptious-looking cake recipes. It includes a short history, and helpfully explains the difference between different types – Irish, English, cream, or high. If you feel that being pampered should be part of the experience, and don’t know where to go, try the daily deal website Dealzippy, afternoon tea in London being a popular offer.

The process of serving afternoon tea in the Duchess of Bedford’s time had to be exact. The first pot of tea was prepared in the kitchen, and carried to the hostess. This teapot was warmed from another one (usually silver) that was kept heated over a small flame. By the 1880s, it had become fashionable for the upper classes to change into long gowns, gloves and hats, and to move into the drawing room.

Afternoon tea today usually consists of sandwiches and scones with jam (a twentieth century addition), followed by small cakes. The Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee, has a lovely photograph of a tiered cake plate on its website, surrounded by traditional bone china crockery. Unfortunately, the museum itself is closed at the moment, while negotiating for new London premises, but when it re-opens, you will be able to discover the four-hundred-year-old social and commercial history of tea and coffee in Britain. The Twinings tea company also has a small museum, at the back of its historic shop in the Strand, purchased by the family in 1706, and converted from a coffee house.

Ettiquette dictates that this mid-afternoon offering, also know as low tea, is traditionally served at low tables or couches. The person nearest to the teapot should pour for everyone, so the old joke “shall I be mother?” isn’t strictly relevant. Afternoon tea in London is available at venues ranging from plush hotels in Knightsbridge to cosy Kensington tea rooms. Make sure you get a good deal by visiting Deal Zippy for the best prices.

Why the Mediterranean is Perfect for First-time Cruisers

With breathtaking landscapes, historic monuments, and glistening seas, the Mediterranean is a welcoming destination for travellers of all varieties. However, if you are going on your first cruise, heading for the Mediterranean is especially magical. A combination of short journey times and plenty of variety means Mediterranean cruises are great for starting out with.

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Typical Mediterranean Cruise Itineraries
A typical Mediterranean cruise incorporates destinations from France, Greece, Spain, Croatia, Italy, or the Greek islands. Cruise providers purposefully choose destinations that make stopping off in each of these places worthwhile. For example, when visiting Italy, cruisers may find themselves exploring the Renaissance architecture of Rome. Then there is the ancient wonders of Greece and the glistening shores of France’s southern regions.

Throughout Spain, you can see some of Europe’s greatest architectural feats. This includes the cathedrals of Barcelona and rock formations from dazzling caves. Over in Italy, you can stand where the gladiators once stood in the Colosseum, or meander through Venetian rivers. If your cruise reaches Turkey, you can see how Asia and Europe blend perfectly, combining mosques and mausoleums from the ancient era.

The Time You Spend On-board
Cruises aren’t just about the sites you can see, though. Both on-board and when you are exploring Mediterranean shores, you have the chance to experience other cultures. These cultural explorations come in the form of decadent food and tantalising drinks. In Italy this naturally means lots of pizza and pasta, while Greece is full of the world’s best lamb dishes.

Cruise providers offer great facilities to ensure you are not bored when moving from place-to-place. For example, Royal Caribbean Cruises Mediterranean cruises feature kid-focused H2O zones, golf, and sports courts. This means, no matter how old each member of your party is, there is something available for everyone.

Most importantly, Mediterranean cruises are not too long. When you are a first timer, keeping your cruise short is pragmatic for a couple of reasons. While they are thoroughly enjoyable, it is natural to test the waters first. After your first experience, you will know ships well enough to decide how long you want to stay on one and what facilities you need. Finally, you are more likely to find cruises that sail from Southampton. While there are other cruise destinations that do not require flying to a destination, they are not as common. Removing a flight from the equation means you are not so tired when you first step on-board, which in turn allows you to get more out of your trip.

Making Sure You Choose the Right Cruise
When you hear the word ‘Mediterranean’, you could be forgiven for thinking that there are limits in terms of choice. However, there are probably more itineraries for this region than anywhere else. Before you book the cruise, it is worth thinking about what you want to see.

You may not find a cruise that ticks all your destination boxes, but you can find one that ticks most of them. After doing this, further narrow down your choices by on-board facilities. By doing this, you can find your perfect first-time cruise.

 

An Island Tour of Beautiful Madeira

You may have come across the name of Madeira last time you searched online for ideas for your next holiday destination. Located just under 4 hours away by plane from the UK, Madeira is a true jewel in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Fortunately, mass tourism has not yet arrived to this Portuguese island, so there are plenty of opportunities to discover this natural paradise at your own pace.

 

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Madeira is unique in many ways. Its volcanic origin has given rise to some of the most dramatic natural landscapes that you can find in this part of the world. And despite the fact that the island is only 35 miles long and 13 miles wide, there is a wide range of activities and sights available, certainly more than enough to keep you busy during your stay. Whether you enjoy colonial architecture, adventure sports, hiking, or simply relaxing and enjoying the local food and wine, you will definitely find something to suit your interests in Madeira. In this post you can find a sample itinerary that you can follow on your discovery tour of this island.

Visiting Funchal
Flights from the UK arrive in Funchal airport. The airport is located some 8 miles away from the city, and although there are buses and taxis available, it is recommended that you rent a car at the airport to maximise your time in the island. There are many well-established companies like National car rental just as you leave arrivals.

The airport is located in the southeast of the island. The coastal road towards Funchal offers glimpses of the spectacular landscapes of Madeira. Take note of the golf courses in the area too if you are interested in practicing this sport while on the island. Once in the city, take a walk around the central market and sample some exotic fruits. There are several cafes in the area where you can enjoy a cup of coffee and soak in the lively atmosphere. The old city is dotted with charming convents, palaces, and colonial houses, as well as beautiful gardens that are a pleasure to stroll around.

Madeira’s interior
Madeira is known for its exquisite wines, so make the most of your time here and drive to Blandy’s Wine Lodge to learn more about Madeira wines. Another point of interest is the road that goes north from Funchal. This is a scenic drive that will take you past two natural parks and several viewpoints.

The western side of the island is sparsely populated and therefore an oasis of peace. You will go past small fishing villages like Sao Vicente, Seixal, and Porto Moniz, where you can relax in the volcanic pools formed where the mountains meet the ocean.

While you are in the northeast of Madeira, take some time to visit the Sao Vicente caves, which were formed 400,000 years ago and are a must-see in the island. On the way back to Funchal, you can stop at the Botanical Gardens, where you will enjoy sweeping views of the city and the sea. There is also a cable car that takes you to the charming village of Monte, perched on the lush hills of Madeira.