Top Christmas Gifts for Travellers

Posted on: December 12th, 2011 Posted by

Choosing Christmas presents for friends and family can be difficult, which is why buying something related to a hobby or interest is always a good idea. If you are looking for a Christmas gift for someone who loves to travel, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve come up with a list of great travel related gift ideas to inspire you – whether you are looking for a fun Secret Santa gift for a work colleague, or a luxurious gift for that special person in your life. Read the rest of this entry »

6 Scary Plane Landings

Posted on: October 4th, 2011 Posted by

We’ve all hit the ground with a bang at some point in our lives, and no, I’m not talking about our boss refusing us that pay rise or the feeling you when you receive your car insurance bill, I’m talking about treacherous airplane landings. You’ve cruised along happily for the entire flight, eating peanuts and watching bad Adam Sandler movies (is there a good Adam Sandler movie?), when suddenly you’re reminded that you’re sitting aboard a 80,000Kg vessel capable of speeds exceeding 500mph and cruising at 35,000 feet as the pilot grapples with tricky weather conditions, resulting in less than comfortable landing. Read the rest of this entry »

Mosquitoes and How to Survive Them

Posted on: April 26th, 2011 Posted by

Ah, mosquitoes, such wonderful little creatures – they have an appetite for blood and cause misery to thousands of people and animals each year. The word mosquito is actually used to describe around 3,000 different variations of the species.

If you are travelling to Europe, you probably already know that the species of mosquitoes which are  found on the continent do not carry deadly diseases, unlike their counterparts in other parts of the world. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the mosquitoes you may encounter in Europe. If you travels will take you further afield, be sure to ask your physician for advice regarding mosquito precautions.

How To Avoid Bites

Years of research has gone into studies of mosquito behaviour and the methods they use to hunt their prey. You might be surprised to find out that it is only the females of the species which drink the blood of mammals. This is because the female relies on elements such as iron to produce her eggs – and blood is an excellent source.

Mosquitoes usually carry out their hunting at night-time and in the early hours of the morning, although it is not unknown for them to bite if you disturb them at rest during the day. The mosquito uses highly specialised senses which pick up on the carbon dioxide exhaled by its victim, as well as movement, moisture and body heat. Studies have also shown that mosquitoes are also drawn to lactic acid, which is produced in our bodies when we exercise, and light colours.

To avoid getting bitten, the following guidelines should help :

DEET is probably the most common mosquito repellent, but many people are concerned about putting the side effects of putting this strong chemical on their skin. There are many natural alternatives available – tea-tree, lavender and citronella products are all said to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Mosquito repellent plug-ins and mosquito nets are a good way to protect yourself from bites while sleeping. If you find yourself without mozzie repellent, try spraying Listerine brand mouthwash around the house – a strange tip which is highly effective.

Stay away from areas of stagnant water, as mosquitoes use these as breeding grounds. If you are having a problem with mosquitoes, look in your immediate surroundings for any pools of water – the tiny predators are known to lay their eggs in small amounts of rain-water in plant pots or containers which have been left outdoors.

Wear dark clothing if you can, particularly during the danger times of dawn and dusk.

If you have been engaging in heavy physical activity, shower as soon as possible to cleanse away traces of sweat which act like magnets to mosquitoes. Some people say that sweet- scented fragrances and skin care products attract mozzies, so you may like to avoid those!

How To Soothe The Itch

Unfortunately for some of us, no matter what precautions we take, these little blood-suckers will still find a way to bite us. If you never get bitten, this might seem like a paranoid statement to make! Actually the fact that mosquitoes bite some people more than others is a well-known phenomenon. Studies into the subject have shown that people with Type O blood are more susceptible to mosquito bites, but there are, of course, always exceptions to the rule.

If you do happen to get bitten, it’s likely that the first thing you’ll know about it is when you that irritating itching starts. The itching itself is caused by an allergy to the mosquitoes saliva, which contains an anti-coagulant. Your reaction to the bite could vary from a small reddened swelling, to, in severe cases, bruising, blistering or scabs.

To treat mosquito bites, make sure you have an anti-histamine in your first aid-kit. This will help to counteract the allergic reaction and can save hours of discomfort and stress.

Other tricks which are said to work are rubbing a slice of onion on the bite, applying ice cubes or alternatively heat, using Aloe Vera gel or mixing a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water. Honestly,  there is no one solution which is guaranteed to stop the itch, so it is a case of trial and error! The methods mentioned here should at least soothe the irritation a little and allow you to relax.

Don’t Be A Pickpocket Victim!

Posted on: March 21st, 2011 Posted by

Holidays are a relaxing time, and it is all too easy to be lulled into a sense of security by the sunshine, sea and sand. Unfortunately, holiday resorts and busy tourist attractions tend to be magnets for thieves and scam artists, who take advantage of crowds, distraction and use the opportunity to relieve you of your hard-earned money, mobile phones, cameras and jewellery.

Pickpockets frequently work in gangs and have numerous distraction techniques designed to extract your money. Often as simple someone resting a map over your table as they ask directions(and steal your phone) or bumping into you in a crowded street(and whisking away your purse,  if it happens, it’s likely your money will be the other side of town before you realise it has gone, with little chance of getting it back.
So what can you do to protect yourself?

•    Don’t make yourself  into vulnerable victim – flashing wads of cash around will attract the wrong sort of attention. If you are going to a  local souvenir market for example, it’s sensible to get small change before you set off – rather than pulling out huge notes to pay for small purchases.
•    On the subject of money, it has long been recommended that you take a mixture of cash, credit cards and travellers cheques when you go on holiday. Obviously this comes down to personal preference, but remember whatever combination of spending money you take – don’t carry it all round with you, and keep the excess in a secure place such as a safe in your accommodation.
•    Wallets that peep temptingly from your back-pocket, and handbags which gape open to reveal their contents are just asking to be stolen. Switch over to a money-belt or “bum bag” for your valuables, and ladies, if your bag is vital, choose a style which hangs across the front of body and has a concealed zip. You may even like to use safety pins to secure your bag and make it more difficult to open. Never leave bags sitting on the floor or hanging over the backs of chairs, and maintain physical contact with them at all times. If you are asleep on public transport or relaxing on the beach – do yourself a favour and pop your belonging under your pillow or behind your back.
•    When you are out and about, think about your behaviour and how you might appear to potential thieves. Try to look confident and make eye contact with people around you to show anyone watching you that you are aware of your surroundings and what is going on. If you are going to an area where pickpockets are a known issue, make sure that your clothing and actions don’t scream “tourist” – swap those designer sunglasses for a cheapo pair, leave your Rolex at home and don’t keep your camera in your hand all the time etc. Be alert if anyone you don’t know approaches you or tries to touch you, and feel free to shout and make a fuss if you see someone interfering with your belongings! Remember, if something seems suspicious is probably is!
•    If your passport is lost or stolen during your holiday, don’t panic. The first point of call is at the police station to report the crime, and then you should visit the local UK embassy or consulate who will issue travel documents to help you return home. Super savvy travellers recommend sending a colour scan of your passport to a secure email account, as this will come in handy – just in case.  Other valuables that are stolen should be reported to the police, although  of course it is better to prevent the crime rather than deal with the consequences.

We hope that these tips will be useful to your for your next holiday, and will keep your valuables safe. Have you got any anti pickpocket tips you’d like to share with fellow travellers? Comment, and let us know!

Packing Light

Posted on: March 7th, 2011 Posted by

Over recent years airline regulations for baggage weights and sizes seem to have reduced dramatically, and we are all being faced with the challenge of having to pack more lightly. We’ve gathered a selection of the best trips and tricks to help you streamline your packing to avoid excess weight charges at the airport, while ensuring you have all the essentials.

Personal Grooming & Beauty Products

· Look out for multi-purpose grooming and beauty products to avoid the need for multiple bottles – two in one shampoo/shower gels are great value and come in handy if you need to wash any small items of clothing while you are away.

· Minimise your load by looking out for sample sizes, which are often given away free with with purchases, or buy travel sized products. These are great for short breaks because they hold just enough for a long weekend or so – you can even buy empty plastic containers and bottles and transfer your favourite brands to create your own personalised travel collection.

· Ladies – if you are going on a beach or active outdoor break, you won’t need the entire contents of your make-up bag/drawer. If the bare-faced look doesn’t appeal, try assembling a “skeleton” collection of cosmetics : waterproof mascara, bronzer and lip-gloss go a long way and weigh hardly anything.

· Unless your destination is somewhere very isolated, remember that you’ll probably be able to purchase any products you need at local supermarkets or beauty counters – so think twice about taking anything with you at all.

Clothes

· Experts say that with clever packing, for ever 7 garments packed, you should be able to create 14 different outfits. Think basic combinations of plain trousers, skirts and shorts, with different tops for variety. It may help to pick a colour range that is harmonious, to avoid finding yourself stuck with the Christmas elf look of bright red t-shirt and green shorts.

· Think about what you are going to be doing during your holiday and the type of weather conditions that are likely. You probably won’t need to wear full evening dress if you plan to cook in your accommodation every night of your holiday, but you’ll regret it if you forget to pack a light rain-proof jacket and end up getting drenched by an unexpected summer storm.

· Choose clothing which is light-weight and not excessively bulky. This saves space, especially if you roll the clothes rather than folding them and stuff small items such as socks inside shoes.

Entertainment & Souvenirs

· If you love to read on your holiday, consider getting an e-book reader and downloading enough books to keep you occupied during your break. This makes a huge difference for a voracious readers baggage weight, and is brilliant if you find yourself delayed on long journeys.

· Think about leaving space for any souvenirs you pick up while you are away. And avoid the trap that many travellers fall into – don’t be seduced by a bargain buy which you’ll never be able to fit into your bag. If you find something huge that you genuinely want, consider having it shipped home to save airport worries.

Packing Lists & Other Useful Tips

· Making a packing list may seem a little over the top, but it is worth spending the extra time on. Write down exactly what you will need to take, including passports, holiday money, tickets, driving license and insurance documents. When you have a complete list, assemble all your items in one place and tick them off as they are packed. Remember to take a spare list so you can double-check you’ve not left anything behind on the return journey.

· If you are really struggling to keep your bag weight down, be strict with yourself and remove everything that is not truly essential. You’ll probably only use about half of what you are left with : if you don’t believe us, make a note of what you do and don’t use during your next trip, and use it as a basis the next time you pack.

· Travel irons and travel kettles are great gadgets, but if you are staying self-catering you may well find that these are already available in your accommodation. Phone or email to find out for sure – you may save yourself several kilos of excess luggage in the process – yes, ladies, that means more room for shoes!

The annual vacation is the highlight of the year for many families, making memories which last a lifetime. Wherever you choose to go, it pays to plan ahead to ensure a journey which is as fun(really!) as your holiday. Tackle those typical whines “Are we there yet” , “I’m bored” , “I feel sick” and “I’m hungry” with our handy guide to travelling with kids.

* As any parent with a child who suffers from travel sickness knows, the experience can make even the shortest journey a struggle. Children between the age of 2 and 12 are most likely to be troubled with motion sickness, and may experience nausea, headache and cold sweats. Fortunately, there are numerous solutions to beat the dreaded motion sickness, which at best leaves you with an miserable child, and at worst, sick to clean off the car upholstery/your child’s clothing/everything.

The key to beating motion sickness, which can occur in cars, aeroplanes, buses and boats, is     to be prepared. Many parents find it helpful to use over-the-counter motion sickness     remedies such as Dramamine, which can prevent nausea from occurring and lasts around 8     hours. If you prefer to take a more natural approach, buy a set of acupressure bands, which     stimulate a vital point on the wrist and can be very effective. Ginger is a tried and tested      herbal remedy used for many types of nausea -  try giving your child pieces of stem ginger      to chew, or an     infusion of ginger to drink during the journey. Of course, it never hurts to     pack a spare change of clothes and baby wipes – just in case!

* Children’s boredom thresholds vary immensely, and on long flights or car journeys where they have to sit down for extended periods, you may find that they become irritable more quickly than usual. Beat the complaints(and avoid a headache!) by packing a bag of small wrapped gifts to be opened along the way. The great thing about this idea, is that you can tailor the presents to suit your child’s age. Don’t go overboard and buy too much, and keep it simple : you want to choose items which won’t make a mess and lots of noise, especially if you are flying or using public transport! Think colouring books and washable crayons, dolls, toy cars and puzzle books, rather than modelling clay and musical instruments.

If you are travelling by car, add an audio-book or singalong CD to the mix and you’ll find     the miles fly by!
Older children can be supplied with a map with has the route and destination marked on it -     they’ll enjoy following their progress along the way.

* If you travelling by air, bear in mind that children tend to suffer from ear pain caused by the air pressure changes, more than adults. Common suggestions to ease this pressure include chewing gum, sucking on a hard sweet or laughing, although none of these are guaranteed to work. On the plus side, most people only experience ear pain during take-off and landing, so you can take comfort for knowing that it won’t last forever! If you are concerned about this issue, talk to your doctor before flying, as they may be able to prescribe a decongestant which should help considerably.

* Most short-haul and budget airlines no longer provide meals, and roadside cafés and service stations can be expensive, with limited food options available. It makes sense then, to prepare a few snacks for the kids to nibble on throughout the journey. You may want to avoid chocolate, and anything else which will cause a sticky mess! Healthy nibbles such as dried fruit, crackers and cheese triangles are all good ideas, which will help satisfy hungry tummies without causing mayhem.