London’s best-kept secrets you have to visit

London is a great place to visit, especially when you learn there are an abundance of hidden gems to explore. Once you have decided on a hotel – Superbreak London hotels boast over 350 central establishments – you can then begin planning your itinerary.

Neasden temple

Not many know that London boasts its very own temple. Situated just a short distance from the North Circular, this is one of the first and largest traditional Hindu Mandir’s to be constructed outside of India.

Aside from the intense atmosphere, this is a beautiful place to visit and one that will make you feel a world away from home.

Eltham Palace

Celebrated for its impressive art deco skylight, Eltham Palace takes pride of place in the list of London’s top secret hidden gems. Created by the millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, this 1930s mansion is a must-see attraction and one that can only be described as a masterpiece.

A few of the highlights include the magnificent panelled dining room, the medieval Great Hall and the luxurious bathroom.

Wimbledon Windmill Museum

Positioned on the edge of Wimbledon Common, the Windmill, which was first constructed in 1817, has now been restored to its former glory. Aside from serving the local community, it has been a distinct landmark and one that is enjoyed by its many visitors. Inside you’ll find exhibits of local history and rural life.

Phoenix Gardens

If you’re searching for a haven of relaxation amidst a busy central city, then a trip to the Phoenix Gardens may be just the ticket. Positioned just of Charing Cross Road, it’s hard to even hear the hustle and bustle of the outside world, especially as you sit surrounded by wild flowers and open space.

Cockney Cash Machine

Although a relatively new secret, there are only five of these cash machines in existence. Once you have inserted your card, you’ll be asked which language you’d prefer – Cockney or English.

Those who choose Cockney will be met with slogans such as ‘sausage & mash’, ‘Some Moolah For Ya Sky Rocket?’ and ‘Balance on Fleet Street’. Thankfully there are translations available.

Camley Street National Park

Situated directly behind St Pancras Station, it’s hard to imagine such an area of tranquillity exists. With over two acres of green space to explore, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were anywhere but in the heart of London.

 

Perfect Spanish destinations for a late summer getaway

We may have less to complain about this summer compared to previous years with all the sun we’re getting. However, with the autumn fast approaching now is the perfect time to plan your late summer getaway and make the sunshine last even longer.

By hitting the beach in September or even October you can store up those vitamin D reserves and top up your tan long enough to last you all winter – but where to go?

Andalucía

Thanks to its extensive coastline and great resorts Andalucía is a favourite destination of many holidaymakers for their summer break. The beautiful beaches and vibrant cities make it the perfect choice for late summer family villa holidays.

And with October temperatures still around 25 degrees C and an average of 7 hours of sunshine per day, you’ll be able to get the holiday hit you’re looking for. What’s more, with the main holiday season over, you’ll be able to enjoy the historic towns and hidden coves all to yourself.

Almeria

Founded by the Calipha of Cordoba in 955 AD, Almeria, in the north of Andalucía, is steeped in history and dotted with many important and fascinating historical sights. So there’s plenty to see and do if you have the odd day of autumnal weather.

However, as Almeria is one of the driest places on the continent – in fact it is home to Europe’s only desert – the chances of rain are fairly slim. As with other areas of Spain, villas are available to rent throughout the district, offering a range of beach and country locations.

As Almeria is one of the best places in Spain for outdoor pursuits, the cooler temperatures of the late summer and early autumn are the perfect time to visit the region and get stuck in to some of the activities it has to offer.

Costa Blanca

Just to the north of Andalucía you’ll find the Costa Blanca with its miles of sandy beaches and clear turquoise waters. This is the perfect destination for those looking to rest and recuperate after a hectic summer and offers plenty of opportunities for relaxing, shopping and generally enjoying the slow-paced Spanish way of life.

With the holiday crowds dispersing and the temperature beginning to cool, late summer is the perfect time for a holiday and there are few better autumn destinations than Spain. So why not book yourself a week away and put winter off a little longer. You know you want to!

Senior citizens key to travel industry growth

With their growing numbers and healthy levels of disposable income, travellers of retirement age have never been more important to the on-going success of the travel industry.

The over 65 age group, while not immune to the ravages of recession, is still producing enough individuals with sufficient levels of affluence and time on their hands to be specifically targeted by travel companies. Growing in numbers as life expectancy improves, unrestricted by school term times, and still healthy enough to target ever more adventurous destinations, older travellers are no longer considered to be nothing more than fodder for Spanish beaches or sedate Mediterranean cruises.

Holiday companies that specialise in providing travel packages for senior citizens are now finding a healthy market for tours to such far-flung destinations as Sri Lanka, Borneo, Oman, Nepal and the Galapagos Islands. Excursions for those of retirement age now include such diverse options as trekking in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, balloon flights over Kenya’s Masai Mara game reserves, Los Angeles city tours, whale watching in the Azores and Geisha shows in Japan.

Of course, with added adventure comes added risk, and risk will always increase the possibility of an accident or illness, whatever the traveller’s age. Advice from the UK’s Foreign Office that travellers should be adequately insured for their proposed trip is doubly important if that trip involves travel to countries where the infrastructure is not to European standards and specialist assistance is likely to be required in the event of an emergency. And older passengers, however fit and healthy, can encounter additional challenges in such a circumstance that younger travellers would not.

Fortunately, the dichotomy of ever-older travellers taking ever more risky vacations has meant that travel insurance companies have had to up their game to serve the growing market. Now, specialist companies, such as Staysure, take a far more enlightened view of ‘grey explorers’ than they would have done a few years ago, and travel policies are available that provide peace of mind and security to travellers in their 60’s, 70’s, and even 80’s.

The growing band of retirees no longer see their later years as a time to wind down, but as a time of opportunity to fulfil those long-held ambitions, and the travel industry is the biggest beneficiary of that revolution.

After all, 70 is the new 50.

Tips For Planning Your Journey From Bristol Airport

What to remember before you set off
Reduce the risk of adding time to your journey by organising passports, money, hotel documents, packing, measuring hand luggage, printing out boarding passes and laying out some comfortable travelling clothes on the night before you travel. Try not to pack away items you might need when you arrive, such as sunglasses, headphones, mobile phones, keys and loose change – it will save you a lot of worry the next day.

Getting to Bristol
Bristol is a bustling and vibrant city, with a population of around 500,000 people. This means it is important to factor in any potential delays caused by traffic jams and queues. Bristol has its own railway station, if you would prefer to travel into the airport by train, although car-owners who are travelling by plane from Bristol will find that the most convenient place to park your car before your trip is with APH at the airport.

Parking at Bristol Airport with APH
You can avoid delays by pre-booking a space at the car park at the airport with APH. Save money on your parking at Bristol Airport by booking a space in advance. This means you’ll have a place available to you, in the car park that best suits your needs, on the day you travel. This removes the uncertainty of looking for a space and takes away the stress caused by trying to park your car while the clock ticks down to your flight time. You can amend or cancel your reservation up to 24 hours before the day you fly out.

Hotels near Bristol Airport
There are many different forms of accommodation to be found in Bristol. If you want to be near to a transport hub, there are a number of hotels near Bristol Airport. APH Hotels at Bristol Airport are a popular location, so you should be able to find a range of options and star ratings to suit your budget. Bristol Airport can be quickly reached from a number of areas, with some hotels offering transfers to and from the hotel, while others are walking distance from the check-in desks. There are many hotels and bed & breakfasts nearer to the centre of the city, too. Rooms are available to suit all budgets and tastes, so take a good look before you choose your accommodation.

How to save time
Some airlines allow you to check in online – this will save you time and mean you don’t have to stand in a line with everyone else. Be aware that under current legislation there are certain items which you are not allowed to bring on to the plane, such as scissors, knives and razor blades, so make sure you avoid security delays by not packing these items. Remember that liquids can only be carried on in containers of 100ml. Wear shoes you can easily remove for security checks, so no fiddly boots you’ll have to spend hours unlacing!

The ins and outs of travel insurance

Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York in November, caused much destruction and disruption for both residents and tourists in its wake and has put the onus firmly on insurance firms.

Many victims were thoroughly dismayed to learn that their policies did not provide adequate cover and compensate them for the effects of the tragedy.

Despite the fact that according to the ABI (Association of British Insurers), a total of £416million was paid out by its members last year to policy holders affected by the hurricane, many complaints have been raised about the lack of clarity with regard to the depth of cover provided by travel insurance policies.

Accordingly, this article seeks to remove some of the mystery:

1) An accident occurred on the motorway on my way to the airport causing lengthy tailbacks and I missed my flight – can I make a claim to regain the cost of the missed flight?

This is a common cause for complaint, because unfortunately the answer to this question will normally be ‘no’. Only if your car was directly involved in the accident will you receive compensation – personally injury specialists such as first 4lawyers solicitors are great for this kind of eventuality.

2) A tornado caused a falling branch to fall on top of me and I need treatment- will I be able to claim on my travel insurance?

Most definitely. Any treatment that you need will be covered, as will the cost of medical repatriation. If you feel that you have been the victim of medical negligence after your accident and wish to seek compensation, you should perhaps contact medical injury lawyers like medicalsolicitors.co.uk at the earliest possible opportunity.

3) I’ve bought my tickets but the airline I was flying with has gone bust – will the terms of my insurance agreement force the insurance firm to pay out?

Generally no, as travel insurance is designed to cover risk only. However, a small number of policies do now include Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI).

4) I was supposed to be going to Egypt at the end of the week, but a terrorist bomb has just exploded near my hotel, and now I’m too frightened to go – will my insurance company pay out for a cancellation?

This is a tough one. This is referred to in insurance quarters as ‘disinclination to travel’ and is not usually covered, but a handful of policies will cover you if the UK government specifically advises against travelling to that particular destination.

Take in world-class art along Manhattan’s Museum Mile

There’s nothing we like to do more in our free time than wander around galleries and museums, which is why New York is one of our favourite holiday destinations in the world. By coming to the Big Apple, you’ll get to check out dozens of great cultural landmarks, though we think the best are to be found along Manhattan’s Museum Mile.

This is the name given to a stretch of the world-famous Fifth Avenue in the city’s Upper East Side district that incorporates ten world-class museums and galleries. As it’s thought to contain one of the densest displays of art anywhere in the world, we believe it’s the ideal destination for any culture vulture to visit.

In fact, as it’s possible to spend an entire day exploring each museum along the strip, you could quite easily end up coming here several times during the course of your holiday. With that in mind, here is some information about a few of the institutions along the Museum Mile that you can visit.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

As it’s one of the biggest art museums to be found anywhere in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (or the Met, as it’s often referred to) is one place that keen art lovers definitely ought to check out.

Indeed, as the institution contains some two million pieces of art we don’t think you’ll struggle to find something you love. If you’re into Oriental art, we recommend you visit the Florence and Herbert Irving Asian wing. Here, you’ll discover everything from Tibetan paintings to textiles from south-east Asia, as well as ceramics and calligraphy.

Alternatively, you may want to look at the armour galleries in the John Pierpont Morgan wing. Come here and you’ll get to see hundreds of weapons that form part of the Met’s extensive permanent collection, including pieces from America, Japan and Europe. While the museum’s collection has more than enough objects to captivate you, if you’re hoping to see something new you might want to consider look into what temporary exhibitions will be taking place during your time in the city.

If you’re planning on visiting the museum this summer, you’ll get to take in displays that look at the American Civil War and a retrospective of the life and work of Los Angeles-based sculptor and painter Ken Price, who died in February 2012.

Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design

As the only museum in the country to be devoted entirely to historic and contemporary design, the Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design is one institution that should not be missed.

Housed in the former mansion of industrial tycoon Andrew Carnegie, this museum has hosted hundreds of exhibitions since its launch in 1897, with a vast array of objects displayed in that time.

Among the items you’ll find in its permanent collection are designs for French parasols, postmodern glassware and 17th-century tsubas, a protective guard that is found on Japanese swords.

Museum Mile Festival

While you can visit the above institutions and the rest of the museums in this part of New York at any time of year, we think it’s a particularly good idea to do so in the summer. By taking a flight from the UK to New York in June, you may arrive in time for the Museum Mile Festival.

Taking place on June 11th, this fun event sees the museums offer free admission to visitors for three hours, while sections of Fifth Avenue are closed to traffic so that a fantastic block party can take place. With this spectacle consisting of live music, children’s activities and street performers, it’s a great option for those seeking a family-friendly day out in New York.

If you’re a culture vulture, which New York museums and galleries do you want to visit the most? We’d love to hear from you, so please share your thoughts and leave a comment below.

Costa Rica: a haven for animal lovers

I tend to choose my holidays based on the wildlife I can see, as I absolutely love catching sight of exotic creatures up close. If you’re the same, and find it fascinating to see wild animals face-to-face, going on a holiday to Costa Rica could be the ideal getaway for you.

Huge population of animals

Costa Rica may be small in size, but it certainly makes up for it in terms of how many animals live in this Central American country. Despite only accounting for a tiny 0.03 per cent of the planet’s surface area, it is in the top 20 of countries with the richest biodiversity.

I was surprised to find out that Costa Rica has 16.9 bird species and 4.9 mammal breeds in 1 sq km, compared with 0.2 types of birds and 0.05 mammal species in the same area in Brazil – which says a lot seeing as I have always thought of Brazil as being well-known for its abundant wildlife.

There are so many breeds of animal in Costa Rica, it will almost feel as though you will spot a different creature everywhere you turn!

Explore the rainforest

The best place to find the majority of these beautiful animals is the rainforest and Costa Rica has plenty of lush greenery for you to explore. I would head to La Amistad International Park, as this is the biggest natural reserve in the country.

It covers nearly 200,000 hectares in Costa Rica, but the same proportion of the park is neighbouring nation Panama, so it is – in a word – huge! One of the first things I would do after I’ve landed is join a tour to explore the national park, as this is where I could get close to some 400 species of bird, 213 breeds of mammal and 263 types of amphibian and reptile. That is certainly enough wildlife for me to see on one trip!

The one creature that I would love to spot in the wild, though, is the jaguar. This is the biggest cat in Central and South America, so catching sight of it would be amazing! These mammals thrive in the jungle and can live for up to 15 years in the wild. But, despite them weighing up to 113 kg and measuring 6 ft in length, they remain threatened as many hunters seek them for their fur. So if you do get to see one in the wild, make sure you enjoy the moment!

Uncover an underwater paradise

It isn’t just on land that you can come face-to-face with exotic creatures, and you will see beautiful animals below the surface of the water as well. Costa Rica benefits from having two coastlines, one on the Pacific Ocean and the other on the Caribbean Sea. Therefore, the range of marine life you can see on a holiday to Costa Rica is varied.

Divers can expect to spot the likes of hammerhead sharks, humpback whales, hawksbill turtles and bottle nose dolphins, particularly if you take a trip to Cocos Island off the west coast of the country.

And the rest…

I’ve mentioned just a few of the animals you can spot in Costa Rica, but other exotic creatures you can lay your eyes upon include the following, so make sure you have your camera ready at all times!

• Scarlet macaws
• Howler monkeys
• Toucans
• Three-toed sloths
• Red-eye tree frogs
• Tapirs
• Anteaters
• Hummingbirds

Koh Samui vs Phuket: where to go on your next holiday

Heading to a paradise island in Thailand has got to be most people’s idea of the perfect holiday – we know it’s definitely on our wish list. The question is, which island should you visit? Koh Samui and Phuket are two of the most popular, so we’ve decided to take a look at each of these to try to work out which is best for who.

Fingers crossed, this’ll help you decide between them!

Laidback atmosphere

We don’t know about you, but when we think of jetting off to white-sand, palm-fringed beaches, we also imagine a totally laidback atmosphere. Both Phuket and Koh Samui are great for relaxing in, but, as the less frenetic and quieter of the two, Koh Samui probably has the most chilled-out vibe.

Don’t get us wrong, Phuket is pretty chilled as well, but you will generally find it’s a busier place overall, which we think means it’s got a less laidback feel – especially if you spend a lot of time in the main tourist area of Patong. Koh Samui also has more secluded spots (you’ll be hard-pressed to find these in Phuket), so there’s more scope for days spent on near-deserted beaches.

Quick tip: if you’re looking for somewhere a little quieter on Phuket, head to Nai Han beach on the island’s southern tip.

Overall winner: Koh Samui

Water sports

If you love water sports, Thailand’s islands are a fantastic place to enjoy them. Both islands are home to amazing beaches and offer great opportunities to try out things like snorkelling and scuba diving.

So, which is best? Personally, we think if you’re really serious about giving water sports a go, Phuket probably comes out on top. This is because it’s got a really good set-up for tourists planning to go on diving trips and such – especially in Patong – to nearby famous sites like Shark Point.

The one thing to remember about water sports in Phuket is that while the beaches look gorgeous, they’re not always safe for swimming. So, keep your eyes peeled for a red flag – if you see this, you shouldn’t swim.

Overall winner: Phuket

Awesome day trips

One of the great things about going to Koh Samui or Phuket is that you’ll have the chance to visit some incredible nearby islands. Now, we know you’ll probably be happy enough staying put (who wouldn’t be?!), but we think it’d be a real shame to miss out on these.

If you choose Phuket for your holiday, taking a boat out to Phi Phi Island (where the film adaptation of The Beach was shot) is an absolute must. Should you pick Koh Samui as your base, though, make sure you head out to Ang Thong Marine National Park.

This group of around 40 gorgeous islands is just to the east of Koh Samui, and boats set sail for here from both Na Thon and Mae Nam.

Overall winner: Koh Samui

Nightlife

The party scene in both Koh Samui and Phuket is seriously good, so if you’re planning to let your hair down, you’ll do well in either place. In Phuket, your best bet is to stick to Patong, since this has heaps of bars and clubs catering for tourists. Plus, it’s likely to be where your hotel is, too, so you won’t have far to go to stumble into bed!

In Koh Samui, it’s actually the nearby island Koh Pha-Ngan that usually steals the limelight, thanks to its amazing Full Moon Parties on Hat Rin beach. If you want the ultimate party experience, definitely time your visit to coincide with one of these. Koh Pha-Ngan’s about half an hour away by boat, so it’s not too long a trip.

Overall winner: It’s a tie!

If you’ve been on a getaway to either of these places lately, drop us a line and let us know what you did!

Your Guide on how to have a Safe Road Trip

Whether we like it or not, traveling is always a part of life, and we can’t always afford cheap airfare. There are times when we need to travel short or long trips for some important reasons. Taking a trip can be more convenient if every detail is given extra attention. A hassle-free trip is about everything proper preparation because when a single detail is left behind, it could do more harm than good.

Before hitting the road, it is best to grab some tips that will make your trip worthwhile and comfortable.

1. Keep your vehicle in top shape

Facilitate a general car check before traveling. Ensure that fluids are on the right level and make sure that your tires have the right air pressure. Should your car need some repair or fixing, attend to this as soon as possible in order to avoid the hassles of experiencing a breakdown. It would be a more expensive situation if this happens during your trip. Always take with you a roadside safety kit and a spare tire in any case something happens on the road. Check on your petrol and be sure to have enough until you reach your destination.

2. Consider renting a mobile home

When traveling long distances, you might want to rent a mobile home as this could give a lot of conveniences. Take note that a larger vehicle can give more room for your luggage and people can have enough space to stretch their legs. Bathroom breaks can also be eliminated as you can take trips to the mobile rest room as needed. A huge room can give much especially when traveling as a family. You can also save money not having to pull over for an overnight stay at a hotel for those extra-long trips. Staying in your mobile home saves you a lot.

3. The need for hotel booking

For trips that would need staying in a hotel, it is best to book a room in advance. There are times when renting a hotel as a walk-in client can be such a hassle especially when the hotel is packed with visitors. Shopping for a hotel can be stressful. In order to eliminate this problem, do an advance booking. By doing so, all you need to do is get on the road and check-in to your hotel as soon as you have reached your destination. Planning ahead is always an excellent move.

4. Avoid trouble

Traveling with everything in your car can be an opportunity for thieves to steal your personal belongings. When you need to stop at a certain places, you still need to keep track of your car. When you need to park, make sure to choose a properly lighted spot. Keep windows and doors locked. Always bring with you your valuables and important stuff when you have to leave your car for a few minutes.

5. Eliminate distractions

One of the dangers of road trips is distraction. This is such a difficult situation for the driver. Hence, passengers must somehow be cooperative. Kids must be disciplined as they have to keep themselves behaved. Avoid loud and blaring music as these can affect every other person in the car especially the driver.

Follow in the footsteps of Cuba’s revolutionaries on a walking tour

There are many reasons to visit Cuba as part of a walking holiday, but one of the most fascinating tours you can book has to be the option looking into the history of its revolutionaries.

To whet your appetite for this kind of historical walking break, here’s a bit of information about Cuba’s revolutionary past, as well as the sights you can see if you choose to tackle a route dedicated to this period of the island nation’s past.

The Cuban revolution: the basics

Rebels began a campaign to liberate Cuba from its dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1953, with the likes of Fidel and Raul Castro among those involved in the early stages of the revolt. The first major event took place on July 26th 1953, when Fidel Castro and his brother led an assault on the Moncada Barracks.

This unsuccessful attempt to capture arms resulted in many rebels being captured and killed or sent to prison. In 1955, the survivors were released by Batista due to international pressure, and Castro left for Mexico, where he met Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. It was not until December 1956 that the revolutionaries returned to Cuba, with around 80 of them landing in a vessel called the Granma.

Although many of these men died shortly after arriving on the island, those who remained took refuge in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, from where they coordinated small attacks, with the revolution coming to a head in 1958, when Castro launched an offensive in August, which eventually ended in victory on January 2nd 1959.

Walking the trails of the revolutionaries

As you’ve probably guessed, a walking tour that follows in the footsteps of the revolutionaries will take you into the Sierra Maestra Mountains, where you’ll visit some of the hideouts used by the rebels during the period of fighting with the Batista regime.

The main site you’ll visit while trekking in this region of Cuba is La Comandancia de La Plata, which became the permanent base of operations for the revolutionaries in 1958. It is situated on the foothills of the country’s highest mountain – Pico Turquina – and along with the camp itself, there’s also a small museum detailing the lives and deeds of those who spent time here.

Discovering the attractions of the cities

Not all of your time in Cuba will be spent out and about in the mountains, as there are many attractions relating to this fascinating period in the nation’s history in its cities. You’ll start out by exploring Havana, where you can visit the Museum of the Revolution and even see what remains of the Granma.

From here, you’ll journey to Trinidad, where you can learn about an unsuccessful attempt by the US to overthrow Fidel Castro’s regime in 1961 during the so-called Bay of Pigs invasion. You’ll find a museum dedicated to the incident at the Playa Giron.

Another city with strong revolutionary ties is Santiago, where Castro announced victory over Batista’s forces at the beginning of 1959. The city is also home to the Moncada Barracks, so you can view the location of the first attempt by Castro to oust the incumbent dictator. In the Plaza de la Revolucion, you’ll come across a series of monuments dedicated to those who lost their lives fighting for Cuba’s independence.

Taking a tour based on the Cuban revolutionaries with a company like Explore Worldwide is, therefore, an excellent way to get an all-round view of the country and learn a little about its fascinating past.