Sunday, February 23, 2014

My essential holiday preparation tools

This is a page about the things I always seem to use when planning a holiday. After 16 years as an avid traveller I have streamlined my planning process, so I thought I'd share these things with my readers.

My Macbook is always close to me at home and often when out too. When planning a new trip I usually start by putting my destination into Trip Advisor. It is a great website for quickly finding hotels, restaurants and activities. I use the map feature to find the perfect destination with plenty going on in an area.

I use my tablet (iPad) when relaxing on the sofa or in bed. There is a Trip Advisor app, but I usually just use Google as I like to look for location specific blogs and forums at the same time. I sometimes use Google Blog Search to filter out all the travel agent websites and get to some real opinions and experiences about places.

There are some good apps for travellers. My current favourites are Wunderlist (todo list) and Evernote (notes) for planning trips. There are also ones for tracking expenses such as Trail Wallet as well as city specific guides. Many are free so it is best to download a few and see if they stick.

Ski Training Device
Lots of my holidays are ski based and the Sweetspot trainer from SkiA is essential. It is cheap and very effective for getting me in shape for a skiing trip. Sometimes I only ski once a year, using the Sweetspot blocks for a few weeks before going helps my muscles remember how to balance correctly. It also provides a mini workout for the leg muscles specifically used in skiing.

One thing that I will still use paper for is guidebooks. I have tried electronic versions on the Kindle and iPad but they are nowhere near as good as the old paper versions. I most often use Lonely Planet as they are the biggest company, but I will also use Footprints and Rough Guide depending on date published and reviews (I check Amazon for reviews).

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Making the most of the UK winter

The festive celebrations are all now over. Everyone ate and drank too much and had a great time on new years eve. After a couple of days of renewed hope for 2014, most of us are now starting to realise that we have a couple of months of rain, grey skies and wind.

So how can we make the most of this rather dull situation? Staying indoors away from the blustery weather seems like the only option on most days. It is January and February in particular that seem the most dreary of the year. This is when people are affected by the winter syndrome SAD.

Lets get a few ideas rolling for making the most of the UK's winter months:

1. Take up playing board games. 

This will sound dull to most people but I have discovered over Christmas that it can be a lot of fun. Start with Monoply which you should already own. Then browse for something else your family or group would enjoy.

Taboo is a fun game for a party with friends. Risk is a favourite with strategy and war fans. There are many more to choose from and you can check reviews on sites like Amazon before deciding.

2. Escape to the countryside.

If you plan it well you can still have an enjoyable holiday in the UK in January and February. I recommend choosing a cottage from a site like Unique Holiday Cottages with a fireplace.

Having a real log fire makes all the difference when the weather is bad outside. We opted for a traditional cottage complete with wood beams and low ceilings. It was very cosy with a real fireplace burning. We even took some board games too. Its funny how just being somewhere different feels good.

3. Immerse yourself in summer holiday planning

Visit all your favourite luxury holiday websites, bookmark them in your favourites list, order brochures, then enjoy planning your perfect trip. If you set aside some quality time for this you should enjoy this process if you are like me.

I love looking at photos of beautiful villas in the Med, or aqua blue waters in the Seychelles. When you get that twinge of jealousy that your not there, just pour a glass of wine, take a batch, then start again later or the next evening.