Category Archives: Travel Tips

In Defence of Organised Group Tours

Dancing figures from Thailand found at ceremonial site

Some people have a thing against organised tour holidays. They think there’s no adventure involved, that it’s all about strict plans and blithely following the leader, with no room for fun or independence; I’m going to prove it’s far from the truth. My three group tour experiences were very different, but they all helped me to get more from the country I was visiting, and they were anything but dull.

First I headed to Berlin, Dresden and Colditz with Riviera Travel, a British company that mainly has middle-aged and mature customers – I went with my mum and I was the only one of the entire group not to have either a husband, a pension plan or the symptoms of the menopause. However, I learned loads and had plenty of free time to explore, even making it to Sachsenhausen for the afternoon. read more

Review: Clever Travel Companion’s Pickpocket Proof Tank Top

Where to conceal your valuables in your clothes when traveling

These days we seem to carry more valuables than ever when we’re on holiday, from cameras to laptops, so it’s not surprising that travel safety is becoming a bigger concern. Whilst we can’t stick a DSLR up a jumper or hide an iPad beneath a maxi dress, being able to squirrel away smaller items like some extra cash, a room key and a passport can be really useful.

I recently spent a few days exploring Copenhagen and Malmö and, having read that both cities are safe but carry the usual risks of urban pickpocketing, decided it was best to come prepared. An anti-theft top with two hidden pockets seemed like an easy way to store some of my belongings without sticking out like a sore thumb… enter the Tank Top with Two Pockets by Clever Travel Companion. read more

How to Survive Travelling with Depression

Road or journey to the sea, in monochrome

I’m sick of reading the flippant phrase ‘post-travel depression’ – something millennials are obsessed with, describing it on forums and websites as ‘so real’ and ‘so intense’.

‘Depression’ is an all too casually misused word, bandied about in frustrating but not earth-shattering moments, like when your football team loses or you find out Zayn is leaving One Direction. Equally, if you feel deflated after a trip to Bali, you’re not depressed and you don’t need this post. I want to draw attention to tangible clinical depression, which is about as much fun as sticking pins in your eyes, and affects one in five adults during their lifetime. read more

Altitude Sickness Tips: Unglamorous But Essential

Road trip beside small hill villages in South America

Those travel advertising dweebs have got a lot to answer for – out of all the beautifully Photoshopped pictures of snow-capped mountains, charity hill treks and celebratory Machu Picchu poses, the unglamorous reality of altitude sickness doesn’t get a look-in.

Perhaps the sight of a grumpy tourist clutching their head and begging for a darkened room isn’t much of an incentive for potential customers, but it’s something mountain visitors need to be warned about, much like yodelling or the onslaught of posh children mowing down first-time skiers for kicks. read more

Travel without the Noise: SleepPhones Review

Testing out headphones band by SleepPhones

Jetlag, insomnia, irritating plane passengers, hyperactive children and loud hotel neighbours… just some of the things you don’t want to encounter when you’re away. I’m all too familiar with a lot of these bugbears, and I’d do pretty much anything to avoid them, but a lot of the methods I’ve tried have only been partially effective. Earplugs can be fiddly, eye masks can be uncomfortable, and switching hotel rooms or plane seats is often impossible.

Desperate to find a product that would help reduce noise and distractions whilst travelling, I tried out the SleepPhones® Volume Control Headband Headphones, which offer noise control and allow users to play their own music (preferably something relaxing) through the headphones to help them sleep. read more

Temple Touring, Cave Diving and Turtle Spotting: The Best Things to Do in Mexico

Mexican street scene with colourful buildings and stalls. Credit Richard Cawood via Flickr

It’s a country with beaches, tropical rainforests, mountains and deserts, dotted with Mayan temples and vibrant cities; yes, Mexico is anything but one-dimensional. One minute you could be listening to a mariachi band in a zócalo (town square), the next you could be wandering through a national park or getting to grips with water sports.

With so much to see and do, it can be hard to build your perfect itinerary. So, to kick-start your Mexican holiday inspiration, I’ve narrowed down some of the best things you should do during your trip. read more

How to Improve Your Travel Photography (Even at Beginner Level)

Blue water and colourful boats in Peru with mountain backdrop

People say memories are one of the best things you can bring back from a trip, but I’m willing to bet photos come a close second for most of us. However, it can be a challenge to get a beautiful shot when you’re far from being a pro.

The good news is, it doesn’t take long to build confidence and ability behind the camera. Start getting to grips with photography now and you’ll be able to put your skills to the test when you’re next on the road.

Basic Beginner Tips

Think about composition. What story are you trying to tell in your picture, and what do you want to include or exclude from it? Move away from putting your subject in the centre all the time, and get to know the rule of thirds: imagine your screen divided into thirds each way (nine little squares) then have the subject intersecting the points where some of those squares meet. read more

Destination Irrelevant: The Rise of the Self-Absorbed Holiday

Thai island landscape with selfie pose (photo of woman: credit wn.com)

It’s fair to say we’re in the grip of a selfie epidemic. Not only has the National Gallery’s newly relaxed photography policy potentially unleashed a tidal wave of idiots standing in front of (and deliberately obscuring) world-renowned artworks, but there’s also the queen of selfies, Kim Kardashian, taking things one step further. It’s been reported that Kim K took a mind-bending 1,200 selfies in a single day during a holiday in Thailand this summer.

Now we can admit we’re not safe from pouting posers in the shadows of a city gallery or on a sun-bleached Thai beach, perhaps it’s time we all acknowledged the growing trend of the self-absorbed holiday. You know, the one where the background is fairly immaterial, an all-inclusive resort or a luxury yacht is hungrily booked up and the tourist doesn’t actually have to tour anything. They might venture out on a very occasional excursion, but it will mainly be an exercise in creating photo opportunities (starring themselves) and trying not to engage with anyone who doesn’t speak impeccable English. read more

Chichester Festival Theatre’s first Live Night: A Glimpse behind the Glitz of Amadeus

Theatrical props waiting in the wings at Chichester, designed by Lizzie Frankl

Lonely Planet describes the Chichester Festival Theatre (CFT) as ‘somewhat Soviet-looking’. However, the interior is definitely bang up to date, thanks to a £22 million renovation project affecting every part of the inner space, from the snazzy trap door in the stage to the 100 extra seats and the distinctive ceiling art in the cafe.

I took a free tour of the new layout, as part of the first Live Night, a special event aimed at theatregoers aged 16-25, which took place shortly before the evening’s performance of Amadeus. read more

How to Track Down the Best Hidden Places on Holiday

Hidden places quote Dahl

Long-suffering readers of the blog will know that I’m in my element when I’m tracking down unusual or obscure sights on my travels, but I know not everyone finds it easy to do the detective work, especially if you’re short on time or patience.

I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t take much of an effort to really research a destination, so that’s why I was pretty chuffed to see Expedia throwing down the gauntlet to travellers with the launch of their new interactive map, called Hidden Places, centred around Dubrovnik, in Croatia. read more