Gap Year Travel Advice: 7 Quick Tips

Going on a gap year can be a daunting experience, particularly if you’ve never been away from home for an extended period. Below are 7 tips that will hopefully make your gap year travel experience a little easier and learn some key tips before you leave…

  1. Speak to Locals
    Speaking to locals is a great way to find out the inside line on the place you are visiting, as well as immersing yourself deeper in the local culture. The more locals you speak to, the more likely you are to find the hidden gems which aren’t mentioned in a guide book.
  2. Eat Street Food
    People often turn their nose up at street food, but in many countries it is the most delicious food there is and the cheapest too. And it’s a great opportunity to speak to some locals!
  3. Take Photos of Friends and Family
    You’ll undoubtedly get a bit homesick at some point on your trip so it’s always nice to have some photos with you. They’re also a great talking point with local folks where you can give them a glimpse into your life at home.
  4. Always have a Toilet Roll in Your Bag!
    You’d be surprised how difficult it is to find toilet roll in some countries so it’s always handy to have one tucked away in your bag. You also might not be near a toilet at all and need to go ‘au natural’ (possible after some street food)!
  5. Keep in Touch
    It’s important to keep those at home up to date with your trip so they know you’re safe. They’ll miss you and want to know what you’re up to which is easy to forget when you’re out having fun.
  6. Test Local Transport
    Local modes of transport are a great, cheap way to get around. But they’re also unpredictable so if you’re thinking of going on a local bus, jumping in a tuk tuk or hopping on a motorbike make sure you give them a thorough check first and ensure the drivers are qualified and in a fit state of health.
  7. Enjoy it!
    It’s easy to forget that this is a once in a lifetime experience and take it for granted when you’re there. The key is to enjoy every second, throw yourself into everything and grab every opportunity that comes along. The more you do that the more you’ll get out of the experience.

This is a guest post from Tom at Top Backpacking Destinations.

Enjoy Enchanting Edinburgh – 3 Things Not to Miss

Edinburgh is a stunning city with so much to see and do it’s hard to know where to start. No matter how many times you’ve visited you can always go back for more and keep enjoying yourself. There is a fantastic array of pubs and bars, a vibrant shopping scene and some breathtaking architecture on show.

So if you’re a first time visitor and short of time then what should you be sure to see? What are the must see sights? I’ve picked out 3 favourites below that should never be left off the ‘to do’ list…

  1. Climb a volcano!
    A volcano? In Edinburgh? That’s right. And it’s a must visit. Climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat, the tallest of Edinburgh’s hills for a lesson in geology and to experience this unique attraction. Make sure you stop off at Our Dynamic Earth to get the full lowdown.
  2. Hit the Festival
    Edinburgh Fringe Festival brings together the best entertainment from around the world as comedians in particular step into the spotlight to be judged and attempt to elevate their career to the next step. For the visitor this brings a never ending supply of shows to go to and be entertained and the city during this period is more vibrant than ever.
  3. Count down to New Year
    Hogmanay is another time when the city comes to life and the experience for a visitor is taken to the next level. Pick from one of the many luxury apartments in Edinburgh to use as your base and escape from the madness and then prepare yourself for a party like nowhere else. With people everywhere you look, entertainment around every corner and a non stop stream of drinks on tap it’s difficult to not have a fantastic time. Just make sure you keep an eye on the clock…

This is a guest post from Tom at Top Backpacking Destinations, a travel blog with information and tips from around the globe.

Cape Town – 5 Insiders Travel Tips

Cape Town is an incredible city and one which can keep you entertained for days, weeks and months on end. Holidaymakers visit throughout the year to enjoy what the city has to offer, soaking up the sea, mountains and culture.

We all know about Table Mountain, safaris and the world cup stadium, but what else is there to do? Below I share my top 5 ‘insiders’ tips on what to do during your stay in Cape Town which are slightly lesser known…

  1. Go Wine Tasting in Constantia
    15 minutes drive from the city is a fantastic place to go wine tasting and enjoy the stunning grapes this region has to offer. Save the big trip all the way to Stellenbosch and stay in touching distance of town.
  2. Hit the surf in Llandudno
    Whilst the masses flock to Camps Bay, pick up your board and buck the trend at Llandudno. This is where the pros head and has much better waves than Camps Bay. It’s also close to town, has a beautiful beach and a great community feel.
  3. See Lions Head at Dawn
    Most people will go up to Lions Head to see the sun go down and get a beautiful sunset. That’s the best time right? Wrong. Get yourself up there before daybreak and you might well be able get a private showing of the city being enlightened. It’s worth the early start to sample this stunning view in quiet surroundings rather than amongst the usual tourist crowds which flock there for sun down.
  4. Rock Climbing in Silvermine
    Silvermine National Park is a gorgeous area and how better to enjoy it than from above! Get your adrenaline pumping on the side of a cliff and then turn around and soak up the glorious views for miles around. It doesn’t get much better.
  5. Visit a Township for a Braai
    But what’s a Braai I hear you shout! Braais are huge BBQs that are put on in the townships when everyone gets together and has a massive party. Loud music blares out the speakers, masses of meat gets toasted and everyone has fun. All you need to do I bring your own food and beers and soak up the atmosphere.

This is a guest post from James at Come to Cape Town, a Cape Town travel guide. You can follow the latest updates on Twitter and Facebook.

Staying in London

London is a notoriously expensive city. Certainly, the cost of living can be very high in the city centre, and if you have lots of cash to part with, there’s no end of ways to spend it – fancy dinners, theatre shows, shopping – but it’s perfectly possibly to visit London on a small budget. Let’s take a look at accommodation options to suit all budgets…

Shoestring

Perhaps you’re travelling round the great cities of Europe, or simply want a few days in an exciting city. Either way, the first piece of advice to visitors on a small budget is this: don’t stay too long. Even if you stay in hostels, a week in London can easily drain you of your money pretty quickly. 3-4 days will suffice, unless you have friends you can stay with. If not, the city has hostels all over the place, including sought-after areas like Bloomsbury and South Kensington. A hostel in London usually costs between 20-40 pounds per night.

Mid Budget

If you’re happy to spend around 100 pounds per night, you can easily find some very pleasant hotels in the city. Check online, as you may find some heavily discounted rooms, potentially turning your 100 pound per night rate into a luxury hotel, or at the very least cutting the cost significantly. Discounts are especially prevalent at this time of year, so browse the web thoroughly before committing to anything.

KensingtonHotel

Lap of Luxury

If it’s luxury you’re after, London’s West End boasts a number of world-class hotels. Mayfair, Knightsbridge, Kensington – all stunning locations to stay in. Try Millennium Hotels for some amazing Kensington hotels, such as the gorgeous Millennium Gloucester Hotel and the Bailey’s hotel. Undoubtedly two of the finest Kensington hotels, these converted Georgian townhouses are steeped in history, and drip with money. Visit the Millennium Hotels (by clicking the link above) for more West End hotels.

Taking a Weekend Break in Glasgow

Spending a weekend break anywhere is fun, but a city break in Glasgow offers loads to do and a chance to see one of Scotland’s finest cities.

There are a wide variety of places to stay in Glasgow from hotel chains to youth hostels offering a cheap night’s lodgings, and wonderful five star hotels where you’ll be living the life of luxury during your stay.  You could even opt for a self catering apartment.  Whatever you choose, picking somewhere that’s right in the heart of Glasgow will give you the best opportunities for seeing this city during your stay.

For anyone who enjoys visiting museums Glasgow has a wealth of museums for you to explore.  There is the Gallery of Modern Art, Scotland Street School, The Burrell Collection, Pollock House, Riverside Museum, Open Museum and many more, and all these which are run by the council are free to enter meaning you don’t have to worry about overspending or getting your money’s worth.  Glasgow is even home to the world’s first Museum of Religion.

For many people, dinner and a show is a must here in Glasgow, there’s a pretty good theatre scene with a number of different venues you can choose between including the Theatre Royal, Kings Theatre, Tron Theatre and Citizens Theatre and all offer a wide range of different shows throughout the year.  Dining out here can be as varied as you like really, there are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, and most of those nearby to any of the theatres will offer a pre-theatre menu if you’re eating early so you don’t miss your show.

Alternatively you could indulge in a little music.  The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall is very popular, as are the Barrowlands Ballroom and Carling Academy, and each offers some quite different musical styles.

Shopping in Glasgow city centre may help complete your visit, and there’s plenty to choose from with high street stores and designer labels as well as boutiques and specialty outlets.  Some of the best shopping can be found around the Italian Centre, and Merchant Square.

Travelling around Glasgow is nice and easy.  The city is laid out with the streets in a grid style system so it’s quite easy to find your way around on foot.  If you do fancy hopping on a bus however, you can purchase an all day bus ticket which will give you access to all routes across the city no matter how many times you hop on and off.  There’s also a pretty good underground system here too where you can get an all day ticket as well, and there are plenty of taxis for hire if you prefer something that will take you door to door.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh had a great hand in the architecture of Glasgow, and some of his most famous buildings are right here such as the Light House and the Huntarian both of which offer free entry.  Taking a walk round this stunning city you’ll see examples of many Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian buildings that are well worth seeing.  Alternatively, you could hop on a city sight seeing tour bus where all the most important features will be pointed out to you enroute.

Is your home safe while you are on holiday?

Having escaped for a short weekend break and desperate to find an Italian restaurant in the area, I tried to login to the hotel’s free Wi-Fi, only to find out they required my name, address and email address before giving me access. Now call me paranoid, but there’s no way I was giving out my details.

Why? Well, if I’m logged into free Wi-Fi in a hotel miles from my home, it stands to reason that my house is empty – giving a green light to anyone able to access the information.

We are all so familiar with the Internet and social media – Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. – that we often overlook the security implications of using it. How many of you publish to Facebook the fact that your off on holiday soon, or tweet it to your followers, or check-in at a venue on Foursquare without a moment’s thought that you’re announcing to the world and his wife that you aren’t at home, or that you home isn’t going to be occupied?

Our social media habits are increasing the risk of burglaries, particularly when we are away on holiday – in 140 characters or less you could be announcing to family, friends or burglars that your home is going to be unoccupied and for how long.

Research into the social media habits of 3000 people for The Co-operative Travel and The Co-operative Insurance revealed that 51% of children regularly update their social media status about family holidays. Around 44% of respondents said they are friends with people they have never met and 37% said they have no privacy setting to prevent their information falling into the wrong hands.

Trevor Davis, Director of Retail Distribution for The Co-operative Travel, explains: “The traditional precautions people take to protect their homes whilst they’re on holiday are being undermined by the growth in social media. This is particularly true for families with teenage children, who perhaps aren’t as aware of the need to avoid telling strangers that your house will be unoccupied.

“This year’s holidaymakers are likely to be particularly vulnerable, due to the growing availability of Wi-Fi connections in hotels and resorts. This is allowing people to keep updating their accounts while abroad and inevitably raises the awareness that the user is away from home.”

Holidaymakers need to be aware of the information they give out, and the implications of sharing data with the wrong people. For example, Police in America uncovered a gang who targeted Facebook users, and broke into 50 homes after checking when the owners were away on holiday.

Tips for securing your information on social media sites:

  • Don’t use Foursquare to check-in to venues: airports, hotels or places abroad that will suggest that your home is empty
  • Watch who you share your data with – use privacy settings properly
  • The more specific you are about where you live, the easier it will be for a burglar to locate your home. Use a general location, such as a city or county.
  • Don’t publish dates of your holiday
  • Post updates about your holiday and photos after your holiday, not during
  • Keep personal information to a minimum
  • Don’t accept friendship requests from people you do not know – it may seem like a bit of harmless fun to add them but you just can’t be sure who they really are
  • Make sure your children are aware of the risks and don’t let them publish too much information about your holiday.

APD refunds – ATAB to launch legal claim against airlines

Air Passenger Duty (APD) is a tax on flights from the UK; an unavoidable, highly criticised tax that is collected at the point of sale by airlines on behalf of the Government.

The amount of APD levied is based on distance flown and class of flight with the basic levels currently standing at the following rates for economy flights:

• Band A – flights to Europe £12
• Band B – flights of up to 4,000 miles £60
• Band C – flights to the Caribbean £75
• Band D – flights to Australia and New Zealand £85

Flights in premium seats are charged at double the above rates.

But what happens to the tax you have paid if for any reason that you are unable to fly? Strictly speaking, as the tax is only payable to the Government when you take your flight, you are entitled to a refund. However, many passengers don’t know they are entitled to a refund of their APD, and those that do know are often hampered by airlines that charge an ‘administration fee’ – often more than the tax – to refund your money.

If you don’t reclaim your APD your airline benefits as your tax doesn’t become payable to the Government until you board your flight.

This non refunding of APD is costing the consumer millions. In fact, the The Air Travel advisory Bureau, ATAB stimates that since the introduction of APD in 1994, airlines have withheld tens of millions of pounds from their customers – a Which? report estimated that in 2003 Ryanair pocketed in excess of £5,000,000 pounds in un-refunded taxes.

Outraged by the withholding of APD refunds, the ATAB has teamed up with law firm Barker Gillette to launch a coordinated legal claim against UK airlines that have not refunded APD to passengers.

ATAB Chairman, Tony White said, “It is a scandal that some airlines hang on to this money. It never belonged to them. It’s a tax collected on the behalf of the Government. With a couple of exceptions, most of the UK airlines make it as difficult as possible to get your money back. If you don’t actually fly, for whatever reason, you are entitled to get the APD refunded. The airlines already have your credit card details, they should refund your card immediately. They make it difficult or expensive in the hope that you’ll go away – and most people do just that”.

Over the past few months ATAB has been closely monitoring how different airlines behave when it comes to APD refunds.

“It is truly shocking, we’ve found some airlines that will charge an “administration fee” greater than the value of the refund. This is a complete rip-off and it’s our intention to put an end to it. If you have booked an airline ticket out of the UK anytime since 1994, and not flown, then we want to hear from you” said White.

Steven Barker, a Partner with Barker Gillette, said “Our primary aim will be to ensure that all claims are valid and properly made out. We hope and expect that Airlines will co-operate with us in agreeing and refunding valid claims and that claimants need only seek the assistance of the Courts in respect of legal issues that might not be agreed”

If you have had problems reclaiming your APD check out the ATAB advice at www.atab.org.uk/action-now/reclaim-your-taxes/

Gain an extra day’s holiday with a stay at an airport hotel

Want a great way to make you feel as though you’ve had an extra day’s holiday?

It’s simple really, and not too expensive, you just need to book an airport hotel room for the night before you fly out on holiday. By booking a stay the night before you fly you’ll awaken refreshed and ready for your flight, relaxed, knowing that you don’t have to face the hassle of a journey to the airport, as you’re already there!

There are several options available to you if you choose to book an airport hotel, you have on-airport hotels – usually the large recognized chains of hotel, such as the Hilton – but you also have some hotels which are located just off airport, or, cast your net slightly further afield and you have the option of hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfast establishments.

On-airport hotels

The most expensive option is often to book an on-airport hotel. Although slightly more costly, the biggest advantage of an on-airport hotel is its location, it is on-airport and on the day of your flight you just have a short walk to get to check-in.

Always check the location of your hotel before booking as some airport hotels are situated just a short shuttle bus ride from the airport with the airport hotel sending a shuttle to pick you up from the terminal.

Just off airport hotels

Hotels that are situated just-off airport are usually located a short shuttle-bus or taxi ride from the airport. These hotels often have the name of the airport in their title, but it’s best to check before booking. Some just-off-airport hotels provide free transfers to and from the terminal, others will arrange transfers for you but there may be an additional charge.

Quite often, the hotels that are situated just off airport are slightly cheaper than those on-airport hotels.

Off airport hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs

If you look for accommodation slightly further afield from the airport you’ll find a huge variety of choice, from the recognized hotel chains to smaller, often independent, hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfasts. The choice is often vast and with prices to suit everyone’s pocket.

When booking off-airport hotels always check the location and how easy it will be to travel to the airport. You will find that some off-airport hotels and guesthouses include transfer fees in their prices, others operate their own transfers or can arrange transport for an additional fee.

Parking options

If you plan to drive to the airport, check out the parking options when booking your hotel room. Quite often, hotels – on-site, off-site and even guesthouses and B&Bs – will offer parking at a reduced rate for guests. Some hotels have their own on-site parking, while others will have a deal with a car parking company that will move your car to their car park.

Park and stay

Park and stay, or park and fly as it is sometimes known, is often offered by on-airport, off-airport and some of the smaller hotels and means that you book your hotel room and airport parking as a package. Enquire about park and stay packages when you are looking to book a hotel room as significant discounts can be made when booking both parking and rooms together.

Park and stay packages aren’t limited to off-site or on-hotel parking, you can also book meet and greet valet parking too. Ask your hotel or check their website for details.

Utilize twilight check-in

If you’re staying at an on-airport hotel check out the twilight check-in options offered by your airline. Some airlines, such as British Airways, offer the facility to check-in your luggage the night before you fly. Not only is this very convenient as you avoid having to transport your luggage from the hotel to the airport on the day of your flight, the check-in queues are often shorter later in the day.

Cabin and flight deck crews’ travel secrets revealed

If you’re looking for the next up-and-coming destination, the best beach to top up your tan or the hottest high street for hitting the shops, who better to ask than someone who travels the world for a living?

That’s exactly what Jet2.com did when it polled its 940 cabin crew members and pilots to ask them to reveal their top travel tips.

The airline’s crew members have built up a wealth of knowledge on the best places to visit and the airline has tapped into this to share with customers its top travel hotspots.

Ian Doubtfire, managing director of Jet2.com, said: “It’s always interesting to hear where those in the know go! We thought it would be good to find out some insider information from our aircraft-based staff on where they love to visit when they have some time off. So if you have ever wondered where cabin crew go on holiday, their secrets are finally revealed!”

The best destination for beautiful beaches

Providing a great service to customers and flying aircraft is no mean feat, so like all of us, air crew need a well earned rest somewhere warm and sunny. When it comes to perfect sandy beaches and gorgeous blue sea, Spanish resorts bagged the top three spots, with Majorca receiving the most nominations.

1. Majorca – especially the resorts of Pollensa, Cala D’Or and Palma.

2. Malaga – from the black sand of Playa de la Malagueta, to the quieter beaches a short drive up the Costa del Sol.

3. Tenerife – with white, golden or black sand beaches, it was felt there was something for all.

4. Croatia – from the spectacular Golden Horn, to the long sandy Nin’s Lagoon.

5. The Algarve – with over 100 miles of spectacular beaches, varying from the surfing heaven of Praia da Arrifana to the secluded Praia da Marinha.

The best city break

It seems old favourites really can’t be beaten, with cabin crew preferring to visit cities which combine history, shopping, culture and great hospitality. The city with a beach, Barcelona, was the clear favourite with capital cities – Rome and Paris – neck and neck for the second spot, the fourth favourite was the popular city of Prague and the fifth favourite was the stunning city of Venice.

The best locations for retail therapy

If you’re planning on hitting the high street for a spot of serious shopping, then Jet2.com’s cabin crew know the best destinations for picking up bargains or splashing the cash.

1. New York – from Bloomingdales and Macy’s to Fifth Avenue there’s great shopping at stateside prices.

2. Turkey – open air markets, chic boutiques and Turkish bazaars, whether you’re a haggler or high end fashionista, you can shop to your heart’s content.

3. Milan – the home of Armani and Versace, Milan is a must-visit city for lovers of designer labels.

4. Nice – the place in France to see and be seen, with the shops to match!

5. Estepona – this small Spanish town on the Costa del Sol came out high in the rankings, with cabin crew recommending leather goods and the great market.

Dream destination

Even though they spend all their working life in the air, cabin crew still dream of spending their spare time getting on a long flight to some of the world’s most exotic destinations. The top tipped aspirational escapes were: the Maldives, Australia, the Caribbean (Barbados), USA and Canada and Hong Kong. Jet2.com’s flights from northern airports to Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona offer the opportunity to connect for a long haul flight to destinations across the globe.

Student Travel Insurance Tips – 7 Big Hints!

Travel insurance has always been a tricky subject. With so much small print it’s hard to know if the cover you’ve got is sufficient and if it will cover the places and activities that will be involved in your trip. For students, the emphasis is certainly on budget and this opens many potholes as you risk ending up with a policy that doesn’t cover your requirements. Below are 7 tips that should make getting student travel insurance a bit more straightforward…

  • Get annual cover. In the long run you’ll often find that an annual policy is better and more cost effective than buying separate policies every time you go away.
  • Do your research! Unsurprisingly, doing a bit of research and comparing costs of policies online will save you a lot of money.
  • Buy in numbers. If there are a group of you going away then try and get your policies together. Buying in bulk can often bring cheaper prices
  • Declare medical issues. Trying to hide any medical issues could result in your claim being void – the last thing you want is to be stuck in a foreign hospital and no insurance.
  • Read the small print. As with everything, the key issues are in the small print so you can’t miss them. It’s boring, but it could be crucial!
  • Plan your activities. Don’t waste money on activities you aren’t going to do. If you’re not skiing, don’t include it on your policy.
  • Check the excess. You don’t want to end up with an excess that will void all your belongings. Check what you’re getting and plan accordingly.

Following these 7 hints should hopefully make getting student travel insurance slightly less of a drag!