Thursday, 13 October 2016

Shropshire families on tour!

Shropshire mums and dads,  there are some seriously well-priced flights waiting for you next February half-term.

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Next year in Shropshire there is an anomaly with holidays.  Usually, Valentine's Day falls in half-term but, next year, Salopian schools don't break up until the week after.  Airlines don't seem to have realised this so make the most of your (Brexit) pound!

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The possibilities are endless next February.  Weak spring sun will be found in Italy and Spain; an opportunity to ditch the winter coat will be a tantalising prospect after the dull skies of a British winter.

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A few headline figures to tempt you...

Majorca for £35 return for the week?  The flights are decently-timed and accommodation is plentiful on this beautiful island.

Pisa for £33 return?  The Leaning Tower is an excellent opportunity for cheesy selfies.

Copenhagen for £26 return?  Learn all about the Vikings firsthand.

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Venice for £31 return?  Need I say more?

If you need any help booking flights or accommodation, get in touch.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Get 'em while they're cheap!

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This Thursday, EasyJet will be releasing flights for next Easter and May half-term.  Those of you looking for a bargain break in 2017 will need to be booking by the weekend to guarantee the best prices.

EasyJet is a great airline.  I swear by their no-nonsense prices and approach.  You know what you're getting with this airline and, provided that you don't add on prohibitive costs for luggage - take cabin cases for free - you're guaranteed a cheap deal.

EasyJet fly from 17 airports in the United Kingdom to over 130 destinations so you've plenty of choice for next year's school holidays...

Monday, 19 September 2016

'Twas the week before Christmas...

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What better way to get into the festive spirit than to jet off to a European Christmas market?

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There are a stockingful of seriously cheap flights available for the penultimate week of December and, from just £20 each, you could be sipping gluhwein and cosying up with your nearest and dearest under the twinkling lights of a tree in locations such as Luxembourg City, Barcelona or Brussels.

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Liverpool to Barcelona is £28 return, Stansted to Luxembourg City is £26 and Brussels is only £20 from Manchester!  And, if it's an authentic German market you're after, Manchester to Stuttgart is a mere £32.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

(Next) Summer's in the Air!

The leaves are starting to fall and the mornings are getting darker.  What better time to plan next year's summer adventure?

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Grab your flights NOW before prices rise.  You can deal with the finer details (such as accommodation and car hire) later but you need to secure the cheap airline tickets before the end of the September if you're wanting a bargain break.

We've just booked our flights.  Two weeks in Northern Spain next August for £55 each with British Airways.  That £55 includes taxes AND luggage! So, for just over £200, we've got a holiday in the making.  With glorious beaches and rugged coastline, this region of Spain promises not to disappoint.

Don't fancy Spain?  There is a world of bargains waiting to be grabbed. 

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Next July and August there are some fantastic flights currently available.

In the region of £40 for a return flight are Denmark, Sweden and Germany.

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£50 will get you to Spain, Poland and Czech Republic.  And, for just £60, you can jet off to France or Norway.

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Reasonably-priced flights, combined with self-catering accommodation and car hire, means that a fortnight's tailor-made European holiday for a family of four, can come in at under £2000, including spending money.

Finding these flights is easy!  Using, search UK to EVERYWHERE for the WHOLE MONTH of August.  This will give you an overview of available destinations and a quick tweak of dates and airports will get you up and away next summer.

My other blogs advising on booking self-catering accommodation will help you to fine-tune your break and make it your own family adventure.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Arrive as guests, leave as friends!

With the increasing popularity of Airbnb, the independent traveller can now pick from an array of self-catering property to suit their individual tastes and styles when exploring the globe.

Founded in 2008 and based in San Francisco, Airbnb is a search engine which allows people to book accommodation around the world, directly through the owners, with listings in nearly 200 countries!

A quick search will present you with a plethora of possibilities for your holiday and, in the more touristy destinations, the sheer density of places can be mind-numbing.

So, how to sort the wheat from the (sometimes) chaff?  After a summer of successful 'pick of the crops' in terms of Airbnb choices, I thought I'd share some ideas and experiences...

Geographically widen the search

Don't just look at the inner circle of the city in which you wish to stay.  Sometimes, the suburbs can be just as good.  This summer, we needed a place to stay in Toronto.  Not wishing to drive into the city and be stung for extortionate car parking fees, we looked a little further out towards the 'burbs.  A room in the brand new neighbourhood of Oakville proved an absolute gift.  Half the price of a room in the city, and with excellent commuter links via the Go train, our en-suite bedroom only cost £67 a night for our family of four, including breakfast and ready-made playmates for our children; the host's offspring took our kids to the local park almost as soon as we arrived, allowing us time to chill and get to know the couple who had opened up their house to a random English family!

Use the filters

It sounds simple advice but the more you filter, the happier you'll be.  For example, I always tick the 'smoke detector' and 'carbon monoxide detector' preferences.  I appreciate that this makes me sound like a paranoid and overly-anxious traveller but there are a number of reasons as to why this is constructive advice.  Firstly, when travelling with children, the health and security of the younger members of the team must come foremost in the planning.  Additionally, an owner who has gone to the bother of making their guests' safety a priority is most likely to be responsible and kind.


With so many choices on Airbnb, you can afford to be picky.  Only look at properties which have been awarded an average of five stars.  Why run the risk of residing with someone languishing in the three out of five category when you can stay with someone who's got it right every time?


Read reviews carefully.  Read them all.  Not only will they help you decide on accommodation but they will also help with the planning of your trip as fellow travellers often post recommendations for local restaurants or transport links.  Another good method of assessing landlords is to look to see whether they've responded to reviews.  Someone who's taken the time to converse after they've been paid is someone who's Airbnb-ing for interaction rather than profit.

A rose by any other name...

Also in reviews, look for the use of people's names.  Someone mentioning "Mr Smith" doesn't fill you with as much confidence as someone who thanks "Amy".

What's included?

Look at what you get for your money.  If you're renting just a room with a bed, that's fine.  But, increasingly, owners are becoming competitive and are offering more.  Our last two stays (in Michigan and Ontario) both had fridges stocked with snacks and breakfast goodies.  Some properties provide toiletries too; another recent stay came complete with shampoo, shower gel and even razors, meaning that we could travel with aircraft-cabin sized bags and avoid the need for carrying liquids.

Obviously, access to a kitchen will help save even more money and self-catering is, as we all know, the only way with small children.  The other benefit of an Airbnb property is that you can put the children to bed, placate them in front of the TV or allow them to play outside while Mummy and Daddy have some downtime.

A picture paints a thousand words

Scrutinise the photos.  Ensure that there are lots of images to consider.  Anything less than ten photos then I'd worry.  Are all the rooms photographed?  Sometimes, the lack of a bathroom photograph can be a worry or perhaps the bedding is old and tired-looking.  An external shot helps to see whether the property is in a residential area or secluded.  Another photo that should be looked at carefully is that of the actual host.  Do they look as if they'd share similar interests to you?  For example, I shy away from photos of single men with their cats, in favour of a family shot!  

Instant booking

There are two types of renters.  Those who allow you to 'instantly book' their property, without any
e-mail interaction, and those who require an initial dialogue to get a sense of who you are.  I personally never 'instantly book' as I view these people as putting profit before compatibility of housemates.

'That's when good neighbours become good friends'

Where will the homeowner be?  Is your host going to be next door?  In the next building or ten miles away?  I find that, if you've done adequate research, having the renter in the vicinity can reap benefits.  You not only have an expert on the local area to hand, but you also have someone to go to should there be any issues.  Fortuitously, this summer, we stayed with a host who was a teacher in Canada.  As teachers ourselves, it was fascinating to discuss the international highlights and frustrations of the profession.


From s'mores around a campfire to kayaks for the whole family, a recent stay in the USA was a special find for our family.  A converted ice-house next to a picture-perfect lake allowed us an unforgettable family kayak trip, complete with a bald eagle following our higgledy-piggledy path.  To make the holiday your own, look out for these extras as they can turn a house into a home for a few days.


Some hosts offer the possibility of transport from local hubs and very often, the cost of a ride with your host is markedly cheaper than a cab.  A lift to your bed also minimises the stress of reading maps when you've arrived late at night in an unknown city.  I've found that the ride to the property also helps to break the ice and allows chit-chat to flow naturally, making the stay less like a business transaction and more like a visit to an old friend.

Airbnb is a fantastic opportunity for the traveller to rest their head with a focus on reducing costs and maximising positive experiences.  Yes, you have to do some groundwork to ensure that you've chosen well but, once you arrive and see your 'home', you'll not regret heeding my words.

By the way, all the photos included here are from our family's Airbnb finds this summer in North America.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Autumnal travel bargains

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my job as a teacher.  However, when I see the prices of flights outside school holidays, I can't help but wish I was free to fly whenever my little heart desires.

There are many bargains to be had this autumn and, with the summer crowds having dispersed, October and November are the perfect months for exploring what Europe has to offer.

So, if you're lucky enough to be free of the school holiday restraints, you should grab your credit card and get booking...

What about Basel?  A wonderfully cosmopolitan city with borders in Switzerland, France and Germany, flights are £12 return from London in November.  Snow, crisp mountain views and a European flavour to savour, no matter how you voted in the referendum!

On the Baltic coast of Poland, Gdansk comes in at £16 return in October from Leeds, London or Manchester.

Maybe you'd like to visit Verona for only £16 from Stansted?  Follow in Romeo and Juliet's footsteps and enjoy the city of love.

And, for only £17 from London, Madrid with its plazas and tapas is a perfect week's getaway.  With some of the world's best art galleries, the Spanish capital is a delight.

Spend just £18 and you can enjoy a week of wine, flying from Stansted to the vibrant city of Bordeaux, with its southwestern French climate and mild autumnal afternoons.

These are a few suggestions worth considering but your choice of destinations is phenomenal.  Have a search for flights and, I promise you, you'll be jetting off in no time at all.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Wonderful Wonderful Copenhagen for £25

This October half-term, why not take the family to Copenhagen?  With flights at just £25 return, a quick jaunt across the North Sea will transport you all to a vibrant and trendy city with much to offer all generations.

Flights can be found from Luton with Ryanair or Easyjet, and mixing and matching the two airlines will give you flexibility.  For example, the Ryanair flight is best-timed for your outward journey and Easyjet's evening flight home allow an extra day's sightseeing at no extra cost.

This trip can be done with only one night's accommodation cost.  So, for a mere £200, a family of four have a delightful Danish package this autumn.  

What's to do once you get there though...

The National Museum in Copenhagen is a real gem.  Viking history comes to life and the adventures through the layers of Norse culture unravel in front of the children's eyes.  Entry is free for under 18s.

Founded in 1843,  Tivoli Gardens is where fun comes alive in the middle of the city.  This amusement park offers thrills and spills for the young (and young-at-heart) yet there is an oasis of calm in the manicured plants and pathways which meander through the lush foliage.  

The Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery) is another gem in this amazing city.  Free for under 18s, the artwork displayed in this architectural masterpiece is second to none.  

And, of course, what trip to Copenhagen would be complete without a visit to see The Little Mermaid and her pensive stare out to sea?  Based on local boy Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale, this bronze sculpture is a dream for selfie lovers!  

Another great thing to do in Copenhagen is to see the views of the city, and across to Sweden, from The Tower at Christiansborg Palace.  An elevator rise to the top is free and allows you a bird's eye view of the capital.

Pomp and heritage come for free with the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace.  This event occurs daily at 12pm and the children will enjoy watching the 'Den Kongelige Livgarde' marching through the streets of Copenhagen. 

Seriously consider Copenhagen for a quick getaway this October half-term.  It won't leave you disappointed.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

October half-term break for £30

Milan is a city everyone should visit once in their lifetime and, with flights for October half-term coming in at £31 return, it's within realistic financial grasp.  Shiny Milano glimmers in the weak winter's sunshine and the marbled Duomo di Milano glows. seemingly smugly, from Piazza del Duomo. 

Whilst the interior of the cathedral offers a trove of treasures, the real highlight is the roof of the building.  Tourists can either take the effortless option of the elevator up to the towering terrace with its gargoyles and flying butresses or, like our family did, clamber up the 165 steps to the top.  The price is reduced if you embark on the challenge of walking up and, with children under six years old going free, this is a memorable adventure.  To see the children charging along the crest of a 14th century cathedral alongside the 135 spires and 3200 statues, and peering over the edge down towards the tiny specks of people below is a hair-raising experience.

Additionally, for the mums (and fashion-conscious dads), the window-shopping in Milan is incomparable.  The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is an epic centre of sartorial excellence, with its 19th century glass and iron architecture and its magnificent atruim.  Brands represented in this heaven for shoppers include Mario Prada's first ever shop (opened in 1913) and Gucci's flagship store.

Less than an hour from Milan (by train) is beautiful Bergamo with its medieval walls encapsulating thousands of years of history.  High up above città bassa (lower town), città alta (upper town) presides over the region and, if the walk proves too much for tired little legs, the modern funicular provides a fun alternative to an uphill hike.  Bergamo is one of those fabulous Italian towns where you can spend all day getting lost in the labyrinthine streets and waste  countless hours dipping into churches to view the stunning frescoes and beautiful altars.

So, for £30 each, what's to lose?  Autumn sun, Italian fashion and classical architecture are all waiting to be enjoyed.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Make your National Trust membership go further

If, like my family, you've got National Trust membership but have become bored with the same old local stately piles on a Sunday afternoon, why not make your subscription go further? Literally.

That little orange card in your wallet can also work its magic across the sea in Northern Ireland.

The rugged County Antrim coastline is perfect for picnicking on glorious beaches, listening to the echoes in compelling caves and swaying on rickety rope bridges.

The National Trust's vertiginous rope bridge (above) was built in 1775 by salmon fisherman and it links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede (translated to 'Rock in the Road'.) This simple bridge spans 20 metres and is 30 metres above the rocks of the sea, and hose who are brave enough to hold on tight and not look down are rewarded with views across to the Scottish islands.

Travel a little way along the stunning coastline and you'll be able to use your card again, this time at The Giant's Causeway.  The inner-geographer in you will marvel at the 40,000 basalt columns and the kids will love climbing over (and slipping) on the rocks.  Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, most of the formations are hexagonal but some have up to eight sides; a great family competition is to see who can find the column with the most sides!  

Flights to Northern Ireland are cheap and for around £30 each you can fly to the Emerald Isle with Ryanair or Easyjet from several regional airports.  

Myself and the crew are off to explore Northern Ireland in August on a quick jaunt.  Our flights (for the four of us) have come in under £100, our Premier Inn room slap bang in the middle of Belfast city has cost £34 for a night's use of a family room and car hire for 24 hours is a measly £21.  Two children eat free with every adult breakfasting at a Premier Inn and, in this part of the world, Tesco Clubcard vouchers are valid at restaurants such as Prezzo and Pizza Express.  So, for £155 we have a family trip to Northern Ireland with no additional costs for entertainment while we're there; our National Trust membership and Tesco Clubcard have eliminated additional expenses.  

When you consider that a family day out in the summer holidays to a theme park can cost in the region of £150 for entrance tickets alone, a quick nip across the sea seems like an Irish adventure worth having.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Grab a summer bargain!

Those of you still without plans for the summer will be pleased to know that the bargains are plentiful for August this year.  For under £100 spent on flights, a family of four can fly off to some amazing destinations...

What about Germany?  For just £16 return, Cologne beckons you and your kinder.  With its magnificent cathedral and wonderful position on The Rhine, this city is bound to delight you.  Landing you slap bang in the middle of Europe, this destination would make a perfect starting point for a roadtrip.

At just £24, flights to Gothenburg and Copenhagen are available, with Scandinavian splendours waiting to be discovered.  Legoland for the children, travels across the majestic Øresund Bridge between the two countries and all the gravlax you can eat!

Or what about wonderfully crisp Basel for £35 return?  Sitting on the border of France, Germany and Switzerland, this city is one of many identities.  Mountain passes, world-class art galleries and trains that run on time!

And, if it's gelato and pizza you're after, Milan is cheap at £46 return at the height of summer.  The beauty of the Italian Lakes will delight you, I promise.  Como, Maggiore or Garda?

Factor in self-catering accommodation (see my blog from January for tips) and you've got a European week for under £750 for the whole family.  Definitely a holiday to remember.

I'm more than happy to help source flights and accommodation for you and your family.  Why pay brochure prices when you can create a bespoke break for half the price? 

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Walt Disney World and Legoland for MUCH less than you'd expect!

With yesterday's high court ruling on holidays during term-time, it looks as if the world is now a family's oyster, making it cheaper to holiday abroad than to stay in this country.  The gamble with the weather is officially over and you can flit the UK to be assured of wall-to-wall sun and the cheap Euro or dollar.

Next month, direct flights to Florida from London, Manchester and Birmingham are only £250 return.  Factor in accommodation in your own self-catering villa (with pool) and a fortnight's holiday with Mickey, Pluto and Cinderella comes in at under £2000!  A quick look at the Thomas Cook website reveals that's a saving of over £4000 for a family of four! 

For £2000, you'd struggle to holiday in this country for a fortnight in July or August and you wouldn't be guaranteed the weather or the variety an Orlando holiday can offer in the way of alligators, swamplands, water parks, the Kennedy Space Centre...

For those watching the purse strings a little more, I have the perfect theme park alternative a little closer to home.  Why go to Legoland Windsor when return flights to the Danish home of the plastic brick are only £15 at the end of this month?  And as for minimising costs on entry to the theme park, I have the perfect plan for money-savvy parents.  Just as we, in the UK, have the 2-for-1 vouchers for venues/days out on cereal boxes in the UK, the Danish and Germans have similar offers and a quick ebay search produces such deals for only a euro.  When we visited Billund last summer, I sourced a fistful of vouchers which meant that our kids went free into Legoland, with lots of vouchers left over to dish out to other families at the payment booths.  If you search for 'Legoland gutschein', you'll be sure to find a host of sellers who can save you money on the entrance fee.

So, a Lego-themed minibreak for under £150 for a family of four, including accommodation, travel, entry to the park and the joys of Scandinavian culture. In comparison, Alton Towers costs £130 for a day ticket.  Surely, a no-brainer?

Orlando and Billund.  The most perfect family destinations at a perfect price.

And, as always, if you need a hand sniffing out these bargains, give me a shout!  I'd love to help you bag a bargain, full of family memories.