When I was a child, family holidays involved picnics and windbreaks, intensive AA map reading and taking a punt on whether a hotel would be anything like the brochure suggested. Today’s families are so much better informed and really do have the world at their fingertips, with parenting blogs, specialist magazines, in-car SatNavs and travel review sites to help them plan adventures. However, with so much choice, making decisions can be just as tricky.
That’s where The Family Travel Show comes in – it’s the first consumer event designed just for families, providing hands-on advice and talks. Here’s what to expect, and how to save 50% on the price of your tickets (you’re welcome!).
Lawrence Durrell once said that “Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.” I’m a big advocate of travelling for wellbeing, but I’ve also blogged about what it’s like to be away when you’re depressed, and how you can get through it. One big issue remains: finding travel insurance to cover depression can be a bit of a nightmare because, as the FCO says, it needs to be declared as a pre-existing medical condition. That policy will protect you from any health-related issues that may crop up during your trip, but you’ll pay a lot for the privilege.
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.
Zora Neale Hurston, the American writer and anthropologist, once said: ‘Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.’ Yet, when it comes to travel, most of us do very little prep at all, then wonder why we end up with only a vague idea of where we’ve spent the last few days and what it meant to be there.
It’s great to be spontaneous and live in the moment, but a little research goes a long way and means you won’t waste as much of your time off. By all means don’t tie yourself down to specific times, or route march between sights, but do turn up with a fair idea of what you want to get out of your visit. Unless you’ve got deep pockets, you may well only visit a place once in your lifetime, so why take it for granted?
The reason Cuba fast-tracked its way to the top of my priorities, bypassing much-longed-for trips to India, Peru and Mexico in one fell swoop, was embarrassingly based on hipster logic. “Get there before everyone else does!” Screamed the travel journalists, bloggers and guidebook authors. “Cuba’s about to change forever!”
With the gradual and inevitable decline of the president, Fidel Castro, there’s no escaping the fact that the country is teetering on the precipice and is headed for modernisation and – gulp – Americanisation. It’s only mere months since Beyoncé and Jay-Z rocked up on its shores for a holiday, with little Blue Ivy in tow, but already there’s a sense of urgency for people to follow in their footsteps.
(To be read with the strains of ‘The Final Countdown’ playing in the background, for that added sense of drama that only a power ballad can bring, and a bit of assonance with the title).
Only a couple of weeks ago, I was hanging around Reykjavik with my friend and we’d pass a Thai shop most days when we were going to and from our hotel. It was full to the brim with Thai furniture and trinkets, especially those little hypnotic waving cat figures, known as Beckoning Cats. Every time we’d give the waving golden yellow cats a little hello wave back, for luck, and I’d wonder what Thailand was really like. Well, last Thursday I got one massive step closer to actually finding out, as I was somehow lucky enough to win a Thai island hopping adventure with Contiki, through their Blogger Challenge (which was launched at the brilliant Traverse 2013 conference in Brighton)!
Icetinerary, like itinerary, but with ice, geddit? (Groan). Unsurprisingly, I’ve already started making puns in preparation for my four day trip to Iceland with one of my best friends, at the end of this week. She might not know what she’s let herself in for…
Joking aside, we’ve had to do a fair bit of planning, as there are so many tours and pre-booked experiences that have caught our attention. Like the rest of the hordes flying into Reykjavik, we want to see it all, from the whales and the puffins to the Golden Circle, but obviously I’ve also added in some geeky points to the itinerary, as I’ve done my research and found some great ideas that were just too tempting to resist.
In just three days’ time I’ll be in Rome, checking out the Eternal City and tracking down the best coffee, pasta and gelato – well, it’d be rude not to. I’ve been loosely planning my trip for a few months, but now it’s time to actually work out the must-see sights on my list and make sure I don’t leave without ticking them off.
WEIRD AND WONDERFUL
1. The Museum of Purgatory – Regular readers might have noticed that I’m a sucker for unusual sights, so this tiny museum (dedicated to souls stuck between heaven and hell) is an essential stop. It’s at the back of a church and consists of just 20 exhibits in one tiny room, amassed by a single collector up until his death in 1912, so it’ll be a bit like stepping back in time by 101 years.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.