February 25th, 2014

It’s glitzy, it’s glamorous – it’s London. A lot of the time, it’s easy to get caught up in the capital and particularly if you are arriving in the UK from abroad, it might seem like the only region that the country has to offer.

While this blog is primarily targeted to featuring the best hotels that London has to offer, we’re about to go against the grain. If you’re hitting the UK simply to watch Big Ben tick, see where the Queen lives and take a ride on that giant big wheel that everyone talks about, go ahead and book your stay in the capital.

For everyone else, it might be advisable to read on. It might not have the sandy beaches, but the UK does have countless areas that are worthy of a vacation. Here, we’ll take a look at some of our favourites…

Scotland

If we venture right oop’ North, Scotland can be ideal for some inquisitive tourists. Again, if you’re looking for glistening sun and sandy beaches, you’re in the wrong place.

Instead, Scotland can provide everything else that the modern traveller wants to experience. For those looking to reap every bit of culture from their getaway, a trip to Edinburgh could be on the agenda. Alternatively, for those that want to witness Scotland at its rawest and arguably most beautiful form, taking to any of the areas covered by the National Trust for Scotland will not leave you disappointed.

Yorkshire Dales

If we venture slightly south of the above, the Yorkshire Dales have carved a superb reputation for holidaymakers over the years. It’s mainly locals that take advantage of these countryside surroundings, but any foreigner won’t believe their eyes when they fixate upon the area’s natural beauty.

The Dales span over valleys upon valleys and with caves thrown in there as well, this is an absolute must-visit for anyone who’s partial to the countryside. Additionally, most of the region falls into the National Park scheme, meaning that it’s all maintained to pristine condition.

Suffolk

At the other side of the country we have Suffolk. For the historical buffs out there, this can make a sterling visit with the region boasting numerous castles, museums and even working breweries.

This is also an area that is perfect for those like to inject a little action and adventure into their getaway. Whether it’s a leisurely round of golf at the Ufford Park Hotel, or something a bit more extreme at Go Ape, Suffolk really does cater for everyone and still boasts the picturesque views that the other regions have.

Devon

Again, we’ll now switch to a completely different portion of the country, this time in the South West. The fact that so many English nationals still take their holiday periods to Devon speaks volumes about the region’s attractiveness, and it’s another place that is open to the whole family.

Whether it’s National Parks, zoos, theme parks or just one of the many coastal regions, Devon can be regarded as one of the most rounded destinations that won’t leave anyone in your group disappointed.

Snowdonia

Out of the whole of the UK, it could be argued that Wales has one of the worst reputations. It’s generally looked down upon by a lot of the UK, although if you delve deeper into this country you’ll see that it’s one of the most beautiful around.

Snowdonia is unquestionably the peak of Wales’ beauty and if you’re partial to a spot of mountaineering, Snowdon in particular is a must-visit place. For everyone else, this National Park paints images that won’t be rivalled by any destination in the world. Few spots will beat it for views and while this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, particularly if you’re considering a trip to the hustle and bustle of London, you’d be surprised at the general effect that Snowdonia presents to visitors of all types.

February 20th, 2014

Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Luton and even Southend – nobody can ever say that London isn’t accessible from an international perspective. However, one thing that people certainly can claim is that it can cost an arm and a leg, particularly if you are looking to take your own vehicle.

Turn up on the day and you’ll be hit with a complete and utter shock to the system. Chances are, the cost of parking at the airport will trounce the whole cost of your ticket out of the country. It means that the budget holiday that you thought you’d made a killer saving on, has just been blown out of the water.

Fortunately, there are ways around the rigours of London airport parking prices. If you’re looking to save a small fortune, read on and look into some of the best methods to achieve it.

Method #1 – “The Driveway”

It sounds a bit of a cowboy method, but you’d be surprised at just how many households are renting out their driveway nowadays. In fact, there are even third party broker sites that will help to arrange this for you – with many of the drive owners then acting as a taxi and ferrying you to the airport.

Naturally, the savings can be terrific. We’re not going to dabble in specifics, but some sources suggest that you can slash your parking bill by up to 70%. You might have to set off an hour or so earlier, but how many more sticks of rock can you bring back for that price?

Method #2 – “The Value Taxi”

We’ve called it the value taxi, as it’s basically the complete opposite to your standard airport taxi. Flag down one of those cabs waiting outside on the terminal on the day and we won’t even speculate how much you’ll pay. Basically, your spending money has just been gulped down in one fell swoop.

However, take to the pre-book option and you’ll be amazed at the savings. Simply calling up a few days in advance can slash your taxi fares and fortunately, there’s no shortage of companies offering such a service. Out of the ones we looked at, Alpha AirPort Taxi Service seemed to be one of the more competitive and was ideal for those travellers who were coming from further afield to take advantage of the London airports.

Method #3 – “Car Park Z”

If you are intent on taking your vehicle, but still looking to save the pennies, you may just have to compromise that little bit more. Most airports now offer a tiered car parking system, with the premium spaces situated right next to the terminal building, while the cheaper ones could be as far as a forty minute shuttle bus away.

It’s again going to cost you more than some of the other options we’ve discussed, but for some people taking a vehicle is an absolute necessity for whatever reason. Out of all of the suggestions this is probably our least favourite as the process of getting a bus is hardly a pleasant one, but again, needs must for some travellers.

Method #4 – “Friends”

If all else fails, it might be an idea to simply tap into that wide circle of friends you have. It’s the cheapest solution by far and while a lot of airports are doing their upmost to limit the amount of waiting zones around the terminal, you’ll probably only pay a quid and have the opportunity to stop for ten minutes or so.

Again, this isn’t a solution that’s available for everyone. When it comes to airport transportation, particularly around the London airports, you’ll need all the help you can muster in a bid to beat the hiked prices though.

February 10th, 2014

Let’s be frank, timeshares are nothing new – they’ve been around for decades. Something that is somewhat modern in the industry are timeshare points schemes though and with more and more companies jumping in on the act, we’re about to ask whether or not they really offer considerable advantages over the “traditional” options.

At this point (pardon the pun), it’s probably worth swatting up on exactly what timeshare point schemes are. To give a very brief overview; customers buy points, which can then be “spent” on holidays throughout the twelve month period. In essence, the points act as a currency.

While the above paragraph is probably the shortest ever overview you’ll ever see on timeshare points schemes, it immediately gives the impression that they are a superb concept. However, does this prove to be the case from a practical sense?

The Advantages

If we hone in on the benefits of these point schemes, the immediate one is that they are incredibly flexible. Fancy a trip to Paris one year? Sure thing. How about a visit to the Algarve next time? It’s a done deal. If you opt for an established broker like Travel and Leisure, you will be paired up with a points scheme which has hordes of resorts in their arsenal. As long as you have the points balance to cover it, you’ll be able to travel to any destination.

There is also another benefit in relation to the flexibility; the duration of your stays. Naturally, the more points you spend, the longer your holiday. As such, you could take advantage of a longer holiday in the low season, as it won’t cost you as many points. In short, it’s all about balancing the quality of your resort, the season and the duration up so that you use all of your points across the twelve month period. There’s none of this “two weeks per year” business, you have as much holiday time as your points dictate.

If we also compare the points schemes to your standard timeshare, it should also be noted that some companies will allow you to dedicate some points towards flights and other expenses. If you have decided to just take the one holiday for the year, this can result in huge savings and ones that would not be possible with the traditional timeshare option.

The Drawbacks

Unfortunately, let’s not forget about the drawbacks that can sometimes be prevalent with these clubs. On the whole, they will work wonders for members, but you’ve also got to consider the fact that this is an option which makes no guarantees and you can’t definitely say, year-on-year, that you are going to be net the holiday of your choice. When it comes to school holidays and other restrictions, this is obviously not an ideal position to be put in.

Another disadvantage revolves around the transparency of these schemes. Most members approach them under the belief that they buy their points, and that’s that. Unfortunately, these timeshares have the habit of being affected by significant maintenance and annual fees. In some cases, it completely blows the effectiveness of the timeshare out of the water – which is again why it is crucial to ensure that you only use a reputable broker.

We should end on another financial issue as well, although this is one that applies to all timeshares. It doesn’t matter whether you purchase one via the traditional model, or one through the points policy as detailed above – they should never be seen as investments. They will depreciate over time, and if anything they can only be referred to as an investment for leisure purposes, if there ever was such a term.