Monday, June 22, 2009

Tips For Planning Your Trip

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10 Things To Do While In Ireland

Ireland has become a secret hide-a-way for vacationers in the past 20 years, and there is plenty to do while in Ireland. In the early 1990’s, Ireland took an economic turn upwards, and the country began to establish itself with economic success. Since then immigration has increased from the European countries, Russia, and even Australia and the U.S. The well-hidden secret of the wealth that Ireland has to offer has begun to slip out.

Today, vacationers and those who just want a quick get-a way for a weekend or so, are coming to Ireland to experience the old town charm mixed with what the thriving metropolis has to offer. There is something to do for everyone between the ages of 1 and 101, and there’s always more to come back to.

Dublin, with almost 500,000 people, is the capital of Ireland.

Belfast, again close to 500,00 is the capital of Northern Ireland. Both of these huge cities began as shipping ports, through the Irish Sea, way back around 488AD, so they are filled with the charm and character of an old town, while being able to offer you all the comforts of a bustling city.

There are many cultural villages strewn throughout the country that offer experience, culture and very wonderful foods!

Museums, theaters, and sporting events

Plenty of shopping are available as well. And, it is some of the best that you will do anywhere.

With the mass transit system you and your family can easily reach any destination, or tour the town. The system itself is a thing to see and experience.

Restaurants and outdoor pubs spring up everywhere so you can always stop into one of these friendly taverns and get refreshment. Children are welcome almost everywhere and casual attire is accepted.

Of course, if you want to go out to a fine restaurant for dinner, and then go dancing till dawn, there is plenty of nightlife for you as well.

Ireland has the most beautiful beaches of anywhere, and Galway County on Galway Bay is a great place to enjoy some of the surf. Since Ireland is an island, there are a lot of sandy shores to see, but remember that the summer season is only from June to August, and then a light jacket might be necessary as you walk the shoreline. The waves, sun and the sand are enticing though, and the kids will just love to just go and have fun! So be certain to make at least one of your days in Ireland a beach day!

Then at the end of the day, what could be better than a fresh seafood dinner prepared specially for you, in any one of the many oceanside restaurants that line the coastal towns. You could drive from Dublin to Galway City in a matter of a couple of hours, and with the Atlantic ocean on the west side of Ireland, and the Irish Sea bordering the east side, you had better believe that the best in North Atlantic seafood is available for you!

The variety and charm of Ireland makes it the best get-a-way for your whole family, or just for two. Come and enjoy!

10 Time-Tested Tips for Traveling With Toddlers

Traveling with toddlers can be torture.

New sights and sounds can be overwhelming to a young child and vacation excitement can quickly turn into temper tantrums if you're not prepared.

Here are 10 parent-practiced tips to help make traveling with toddlers fun.

1. Choose a family-friendly destination. Skip the crowded tourist destinations and opt instead for a locale that is accustomed to having kids around.

2. Safety first! Always make sure your child's car seat is properly secured. Also, use a removable window shade to help block the sun.

3. Pack entertainment. "Best bets for entertaining your child in the car and hotel room include favorite books, games and toys," says Nancy Wolpert of Nickelodeon Home Entertainment. For all-inclusive entertainment, she recommends two new DVDs that feature a collection of kids' favorite TV shows. "The Nick Picks and Nick Jr. Favorites DVDs will keep them entertained for hours," Wolpert promises.

4. Plan rest stops. If you're driving, break up the monotony by stopping every couple of hours (or more frequently if necessary). Kids need to stretch out after being cooped up in a car for a while. Consider bringing along a ball to kick or throw around during these breaks.

5. Be flexible. Set realistic expectations and let your child soak up the experience at his or her own pace. You might want to limit your activities to one a day. Otherwise, you could wind up with an over-stimulated toddler.

6. Bring water and plenty of snacks. Fruit, granola bars, mini juice cartons and small boxes of cereal make for great, healthy snacks.

7. Bring a beloved item. A blankie or cuddly toy will help your toddler feel safe and secure. Be sure to have a replacement on hand, too. It will save you some heartache should the original get lost.

8. Start and end your day early. Kids are at their best in the morning, so plan accordingly.

9. Stick to your routine. Eating, napping and playing at the same time each day may be all your child needs to feel comfortable in a new environment.

10. Take lots of pictures. They're only young once, so enjoy every moment! - NU

10 Tips For Planning Your European Trip

Europe is the most popular destination for tourists. There are several important things to keep in mind before calling your travel agent and booking your next vacation:

1. Your Budget: Set your budget. This includes transportation cost and souvenir/s. If your budget is smaller, you should visit Eastern Europe, looking for packaged tours, or, if you're flexible, book a "last-minute" trip, which can often save you 30% or more. Check out the current exchange rate between your currency and that of the country you'll be visiting, to have a better idea of what your vacation is going to actually cost you. Whenever possible, travel during an off-peak season to save even more.

2. Time of year: You may not want to spend many days indoors, because the weather can be cold and rainy. You may miss a wonderful trip just because you have not checked with your travel agent or weather forecast first. This is what I recommend you if you're not sure of weather patterns, check with your travel agent who can advise you on rainy seasons or other weather-related issues for traveling to a specific spot.

3. Political Climate: While most countries that rely on tourism make every effort to ensure the safety of tourists, these days it's always a good idea to keep up on the current political climate of the country you're planning to visit, especially if there have been problems in the past.

4. Your waking time: If you usually wake up late in the morning, then a guided tour is probably not for you. Most guided tours start early in the morning, and you're on the go until evening. You may visit several cities in a country or countries within a specified amount of time, and you're required to stay with the group.

However, if you don't like traveling alone, you enjoy the companionship of others and getting to see as much as possible in the time you've got, a guided tour or cruise may be just the thing for you.

5. Your dream and personal desire: This vacation is something special and you save the whole year for. So if you have always wanted to visit somewhere or do something special -- why wait? Include it in your next vacation plans.

6. Plan your day: Take a little time to think about what you like doing before planning your trip. Do you prefer the water, or the mountains? Lying on the beach, or rock-climbing? Adrenaline rushes or visiting an art museum?

Once you know what you want to do, figure out what you'll have time to do. Many times, in an effort to get the "most bang for our buck" we tend to over plan the vacation, and end up needing a vacation from the vacation when we get home! Prioritize your list, and be willing to save some activities or attractions for another trip.

7. Use the resources that are available to make your trip special and save money: Today's travelers have numerous options when planning their vacation. You can use the Internet to find out more about the cities or countries you want to visit, check out prices, even book your flight or hotel room. Here is a useful website you can visit http://www.heping-hotel.com If you're visiting a place for the first time, check with a travel agent, talk to someone who's "been there, done that" on an Internet Forum, or contact local chambers or commerce or travel councils to get more information about where to go, what to see and what to do.

8. Pack lightly: Do not bring items that you will not use and unnecessary because the word “Just In Case”. When planning your trip, look at your wardrobe and pack as lightly as you can. Take only what you'll really need, and remember that if you forget or end up needing something, chances are you can get it once you reach your destination.

9. Get organized: You can use trip-planning software, or your own favorite organizing system to organize and plan your trip. Don't forget things like making sure your passport and picture ID are up-to-date, finding out if travel insurance is something you need, and how and where to exchange your money. The more organized you are in the beginning, the better vacation you'll have.

10. Have fun!: Get organized, have a plan before going anywhere. That way, once you're on your way, you'll be able to relax and enjoy yourself. But remember, there are very few "perfect" vacations, so if something does go wrong, try to relax and "go with the flow" as much as possible.

10 Tips when traveling by car with Children

With the rising costs of airfares and the increasing time it takes to get through security at the airports; more and more families are deciding to travel by car for their vacation. Most of us with young children are returning to the days we grew up in where we traveled most places by car with our parents.

We started asking other friends for how they make the trip go easier and how they beat the "Are we there yets?", here's ten tips to help your car vacation go a lot easier:

1. Decide do your kids do better in the early morning or evening hours for traveling? Which ever it is plan your travel to match, for this us our kids don't travel well in the morning they do much better if we leave after 2:00pm and travel into the evening.

2. Stock your car with favorite pre-bagged snacks for everyone, even parents, a cooler with lots of water and favorite drinks, colored pencils, crayons, a few coloring books, sticker books, travel games, and a travel journal for older kids.

3. Take along Gameboys & games, personal CD/cassette players (even for little kids), and you can get books on tape from the library.

4. Do consider a portable DVD player, this makes 5 or 6 hour a day seem like 2 hours. It also cuts a lot of the unnecessary stops as the kids are involved in the movie playing.

5. To avoid the difficulty of hauling in a suitcase for every person into a hotel for the 1 night stops. Pack a 3 day bag into which each person contributes 3 days worth of clothes. This way you take one suitcase of clothes in every three days.

6. Do pack a lightweight table cloth for outdoor lunch stops along the way.

7. Be sure to take the digital camera you'll create lifetime memories.

8. Do get postcards from every major destination along the way.

9. All kids are different but in general don't drive as far as the adults can go in one day, try to keep car travel to a 6 to 8 hour range of time.

10. Don't fill the inside of the car to the brim causing less space for the kids, instead consider a car topper for safe keeping of your belongings.

Have a great family vacation.

Lanzarote Beaches - Yaiza

In this particular article (I have written others about beaches in other areas of the island), I will cover beaches in Yaiza, one of the seven municipalities of Lanzarote.

This part of Lanzarote is occupied, principally, by the town of Playa Blanca (once a sleepy fishing village), but in the midst of a major transformation. Playa Blanca extends from the western Pechiguera Point (Where our villa is located in La Goleta, Faro Park) to Coloradas Beach in the east, with the Coloradas Beach effectively becoming the first of the Papagayo coves, which is where I want to start this ‘journey’.
You will have noticed that there is a fair amount of development going on across the broader Playa Blanca area. Visitors will be pleased to hear that building is prohibited beyond this point, so Papagayo Beach will remain completely as nature created it.

Punta de Papagayo, to give it its full name, is located at the most southerly tip of the island and is actually a collection of small beaches (Playa Mujeres, Playa del Pozo, Playa de Papagayo, Playa de La Cera, Puerto Muelas and Caleta del Congrio), with golden sands of between 100m and 400m in length and separated by high cliffs. Access is not as you might expect and given the beaches are remote and not near the main centre, few services are available, so please go prepared (We’d advise taking a cool box packed full of food and drink as you won't find anywhere to buy a drink or something to eat on these beaches).

Follow the signs to Papagayo from the main LZ-2 Roundabout with the CEPSA garage and you will end up on a bumpy dirt track road (no tarmac and hire companies generally ask that you only venture here in a 4 wheel drive, but this is generally ignored, so you won’t be alone if you choose to ignore this advice). You’ll need to pay a small Toll (2 Euros), before you get the beach top (park by the one and only cafeteria in this area). You need to walk down the sand bank to the beach (and buggies are simply no go, so leave them in the car).

This unspoilt, undeveloped area is surrounded by stunning picture card landscapes, with volcanic ash cliffs, crystal clear waters and fine white & golden sands and is made up of several small bays and coves (if it is beginning to sounds like heaven, it almost is). This is not one of the best beaches on Lanzarote, it is the best beach on the island and one of the best in Europe. Note, that as you move further away from the immediate cove, nude bathing is allowed (so be prepared !).

As you head back towards Playa Blanca, I will take you on a whistle stop tour of ‘the other beaches’. As nice as there are, they do not warrant as much space in this article as Papagayo. First we have Playa de Las Coloradas, a quiet gravel beach 410 m long, far from developed areas and no public services. Next we find the picturesque beach of Playa Blanca, parallel to the restaurant-lined promenade in the village and 40 m of fine golden sand with placid waters. After we pass the harbour (where you can take a daily ferry to Fuerteventura), you will find Playa Flamingo (200 m. of fine white sand, next to Playa Blanca, ideal for scuba diving), Playa Dorada (a sheltered beach of fine white sand, 30m long), both close to all the services that the town has to offer. Here you can rent sports equipment & hammocks.Next we have La Mulata, 80 m. of fine golden sand mixed with gravel (located between Playa Blanca and the Faro de Pechiguera lighthouse), La Campana, 140 m. of fine golden sand (close to the Faro de Pechiguera lighthouse), Montaña Roja, 260 m. of fine golden sand (near the Faro de Pechiguera lighthouse), and finally we end with El Golfo, 150 m. of picturesque black (yes black) sand !

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11 Reason why you should not park at directly at the airport

Travel means taking parking decisions. There are many options you could park at the airport lot or at car parking facilities situated near the airport. Airport parking means searching, often moving from one full lot to another, or commuting to the terminal by a shuttle from the other end of the airport, and paying a parking fee that may be more than the cost of your air ticket. The experience could make you want to tear your hair out.

Parking at the airport would mean:

1. Starting out early to reach the airport at least an hour before reporting time as many a time a parking spot many not be immediately available and you may have to drive around quite a bit before finding a place.

2. Carrying luggage from the car to the airport itself or to the shuttle service.

3. Budgeting for settling the short term or long term parking costs. Airport parking can prove to be more expensive than you thought. At many airports the rates for parking vary from day to day and during peak season. Often you may need to pay as much as $ 150 for parking for five days. Economy parking is hardly ever available and you may have no choice except the more expensive lots.

4. Finding all lots full and having to make a dash for private parking facilities at the last moment. This could delay getting to your gate in time.

5. During holidays, rush hours, and travel seasons there could be a great jam or arriving and departing cars all making a bee line for the gate house or token counter. The chaos is compounded by long queues at every gate and at the security and this could mean a 400 yard or more dash to the gate carrying your mound of luggage.

6. Security measures instituted with little or no notice can spoil even the best made plans. A rule like no parking within a distance of 300 m could mean that you will have to park a great distance away. And due to alerts there can be random security checks of all entering vehicles leading to considerable delays. The traffic will not just slow down to a crawl but many of the closely located short-term spaces will be shut down.

7. Due to repairs and construction work often unanticipated detours need to be made while trying to access airport lots.

8. The car park may be located at a great distance from your terminal and if you are not in the know, you may choose to park diagonally opposite to the terminal.

9. Valet parking is not a free service; one will have to pay to have the car parked to save you valuable time.

10. Many trolleys only function on feeding in a coin. Even if the coin is refunded later it just means remembering to take along a coin of the right domination.

11. The large volume of passengers at any given time at busy airports just means that the transfer buses are not just overcrowded but slow and uncomfortable with people and their luggage jostling for space.

Why board a plane angry, tired, and frustrated. As a modern traveler there are many conveniences you can opt for. Parking at off-airport lots, is organized and hassle free. Even if the lots are some distance away the conveniences are such that it would be a time and money saving decision.

Lanzarote Beaches - Tias

Tias, another of the islands seven municipalities, includes the islands main holiday resort of Puerto Del Carmen and boasts a succession of beaches, along its 6km of southern coastline, separated only by short rocky elements. In this article, we review seven of the best beaches in this area of the island.

Our first of three man-made (and thus ‘family-friendly’) beaches in the Peurto del Carmen area is known as the Playa Grande. This is the most central beach and has a magnificent promenade of bars and restaurants running along its kilometre of golden sand (100m wide). The placid waters is this part of the island make it ideal for windsurfing. If you don’t want to use the bars and restaurants, it won’t be long before a ‘beach seller’ offers you drinks, ices or fresh fruit. One of the most popular beaches on the island, it has lifeguards, showers, changing areas, washrooms, rentals for beds/parasols, boats and water sports equipment. You can get to it by guaguas (autobus) but you’ve been warned parking is very limited in this lively part of the island.

Our second beach is known as Barrilla (also in the Puerto Del Carmen area), measuring 90m long and 22m wide. It consists of fine golden sand and offers good parking, a scuba diving centre, has a lifeguard present, has first aid on site and is accessible by guaguas (autobus).

Our third beach is a small cove known as Fariones (also in the Puerto Del Carmen area besides a hotel of the same name), measuring 60 m by 5m and consisting of fine toasted sand and calm waters. It is accessible by guaguas (autobus).

Our fourth beach at Playa de Los Pocillos, is located at the more exclusive end of Puerto Del Carmen. The beach has fine golden sand and forms part of the development known by same name. It is more than a kilometre long (1,23 m) and 150 m. wide. High tide leaves pools of sea water on its flat surface. It is quieter than the main beaches, but there is a still a good choice of quality bars and restaurants on hand. When the wind picks up this beach is popular with windsurfers. Windy on occasions, but with calm waters, it is very popular and offers good wind surfing conditions, it has rentals beds/parasols, good parking facilities, signage, boardwalk, a commercial zone, showers, litter bins, has good access for wheelchairs and has first aid and washrooms on hand. You can get to it by guaguas (autobus).

Our fifth beach at Playa de Matagorda, part of the development by the same name has a windy beach measuring 850m and 40m wide, consisting of fine golden sand and calm waters, which make it a popular resort for windsurfing, particularly those of limited capability or beginners. Due to its proximity to the airport and the occasionsl noise from aircraft taking off and landing, it is not as crowded as the other beaches in this area, but it is nevertheless worth a visit. This beach has rentals for beds/parasols and a variety of water sports on hand. You can get to it by guaguas (autobus).
Our sixth beach is at Lima and measures 900m long and 50m wide, consisting of fine toasted sand (mix of fine golden sand and small picon, the small lava stones), this is a windy beach with calm waters, again ideal for first time windsurfers. This is located alongside the Matagorda development and can be reached by guaguas (autobus).

Finally, our seventh beach is a small cove at Peña Grande and measures 40m long by 5m wide, consisting of fine white sand (and the odd pebble). Despite it’s small size, it is nevertheless a windy beach with calm waters and offers full services including lifeguards, showers, first aid, bars/restaurants, showers, parking and telephones. It also has a small promenade and can be reached by guaguas (autobus).

13 Lanzarote Beaches - Tinajo

Tinajo is located in the central north part of Lanzarote and considered by many to have the best surfing conditions in Europe.

Elements of the coastline have become synonymous with the term “The Hawaii of Europe”.

The first of two beaches takes us to La Santa, in a village by the same name and developed around a natural lagoon that borders a little peninsula. This relatively quiet area is dominated by the internationally famous hotel and sports complex, known as Club La Santa, a ‘winter’ training ground for international sports stars.

If you are into active sports or simply want to maintain your fitness regime whilst on holiday or if you want to pamper yourself whilst your partner ‘does his own thing’, then this is the place to go. Club La Santa offers just about everything you could want in terms of active sports and everything you’d find in the very best gyms or fitness centres ‘at home’.

Another article I’ve written “31 Lanzarote Sports – Club La Santa” provides detailed information that might help you decide whether this is the place to stay, so I will only briefly cover it in this article.

Activities include Tennis (10 courts), Squash (5 Courts), Badminton (6 Courts), Beach Volleyball (2 courts), Indoor & Outdoor Basketball courts, Golf (Mini Golf and short game training), 5-a-side football, Full sized Football, Aerobics, Leisure Pool, Olympic size Swimming Pool, Children’s Swimming Pool, Boxing, Weight Lifting and a fully equipped fitness centre with 6 Rowing Machines.

There are lots of beach/water sports on a beach measuring 910m long and consisting of fine white sand.

If you are an experienced diver and want to go on a snorkel safari, an ‘intermediate’ or simply a beginner keen to learn then checkout the diving centre programme (by the leisure pool) as it caters for all three levels. Equally, if you are into surfing then you’ve come to surfers paradise as this areas has some of the best surfing waves in Europe.

If you’re more into the pampering side of a sports centre at home, then why not consider the Hydrotherapy bath/ Jacuzzi, Cold Dip and Shower, Steam bath/ Saunas, Hydro-massage bath with essential oils, in private room (additional payment required), Hydro-jet massage, in private room (additional payment required), Manual treatments (additional/ seperate payment required), Physiotherapy, Massage (Sports-, Relax-, Lymphatic Drainage-, Shiatsu Massage and Foot Reflexology).

After a hectic day, there is a range of entertainment on hand from Karaoke to guest appearances from semi-professional artists. As you’d expect, there is excellent parking on site, although it can be accessed just as easily by guaguas (autobus) and most equipment can be hired on the day at the club.
Our second beach in this area is the neighbouring beach known as Tenaza (it is actually 2km. away from Tenaza itself), located in a rural area and measuring 90m long by 6m wide and consisting of sand mixed with fine grained black gravel. There is a parking available locally.


Lanzarote Beaches - San Bartholme

San Bartholme is the most central of the islands seven municipalities separating the two contrasting landscapes of the north and south of the island. There are relatively few beaches in this area, although we did have visited three on our many trips to the area.

The first beach is known as Guacimeta. This 1,050m stretch of beach of toasted sand and calm waters is quite exceptional as beaches go, except that it’s a bit too close to the airport for my liking. Parking was good and it can be accessed via guaguas (autobus). There are Shops, Bar/Restaurants, Public telephones and a pleasant promenade so it’s nevertheless a beach worth a visit.

The second beach is in a semi-developed area beside the airport and the Guacimeta beach and is known as Playa Honda. At 1,900m.long and 85m wide it is the biggest in this area and consists of medium grained golden sand and calm waters making it ideals for families and creating good conditions for windsurfing. It is about 5 minutes drive from the airport, so the noise from aircrafts will not spoil your fun and it’s easy to park.

We call it our ‘Last Day’ beach !

Do you have to be out of your accommodation early ?
Are you on a late afternoon or evening flight ?
Are you to do something with the children without them getting too worked up on the last day ?
Are you stressed at the thought of spending hours at the airport before you fly home ?

Then, trust me when I say, this beach and Playa Honda generally is a great place to visit en-route home.

Here are my views of it :

* The Beach is fantastic ;
* The whole area of Playa Honda is not directly aimed at us tourists, so you leave Lanzarote having experienced the canarian side of it ;
* There are a great selection of restaurants along the beach front serving traditional Spanish Tapas and the Spanish Omelette in “to die for”. There is other quality canarian food available as well as things for the children (if they the fussy type) ; and
* It has a range of other shops on hand to keep you well occupied (duty free goods, gifts etc).

Finally, we have La Concha, 250m Long and 10m wide, Fine golden sand, and calm waters.

La Concha beach is next to the development of the same name just on the outskirts of the capaital, Arrecife. Good parking again and accessible via guaguas (autobus) and a small promenade of shops and bar/restaurants.

Tips for a Stress Free Flight

Traveling can be a stressful event and airplane travel is tops on the list of the stressors that we experience on what is supposed to be an exciting and fun event. A few simple steps can remove most of the stress of air travel.

Things to do before travel day:

1) Pack your bags. Make sure all your packing is done at least the night before and that you have all your bags in one central location for easy and complete loading into your car or taxi.
2) Have all your travel paperwork organized and in one central location.
3) Make a checklist of all the things you want to check to secure your home before you leave and walk through your home checking off each item. Do this at least an hour before you leave your house. Do this and you will never worry if you left your stove on or any of the other little nagging worries you might have while on your travel.
4) Be sure your pets are taken care of. Make any kennel reservations well in advance of your trip to be sure you have a reserved spot at a kennel you trust.
5) Call the AIRPORT and airline the day before to see how early the recommend you should arrive for a smooth, stress free check in. If they tell you to arrive three hours early and you arrive just 30 minutes early, you will probably feel great stresses about missing your flight. Also ask if there are any parking restrictions you should be aware of. Ever since 9/11, when we have a heightened threat level there may be car searches before you can park.
6) If you are just taking carry on luggage, many airlines let you pre check in right on the internet 24 hours before your flight. That means that you can get and print out boarding passes right from your home. And when you get to the airport, you can go right to the gate and your boarding area without getting into the long check in line. If you have to check baggage, you will not have this option available to you. But if not, it is a great time and stress saver.

Travel day:

7) Leave home in plenty of time to anticipate busy traffic or accident situations. If it is an hour trip to get to the airport, you may want to leave an extra half hour early just in case there are road problems.
8) If you are checking in bags, be prepared to wait in line. If it is a busy time of day at the airport and you are traveling with a popular airline, there could be a significant line. Don't worry about how long the line is. As long as you arrive when the airport recommended, you will have plenty of time to make it to the front of the line and get checked in. It may look impossible but it will happen so just relax and be patient.
9) Make sure that any “carry on” baggage really is carry on. Otherwise you may get stopped at the gate and have your bag taken away to be stowed with the regular luggage. It will delay and stress you. And it will delay everyone else.
10) When boarding the plane, find your seat and stow your carry on baggage quickly. And then sit down and stay out of the way. There are lots of people trying to do the same thing and we've all encountered the folks who block the aisle for a long time fussing about something or other while a harried line of boarders is forced to wait. You don't want to be one of those people. So just get your business done quickly and efficiently and sit down. You'll have plenty of time to get up once the plane is in the air.
11) If you have to change planes, it can be a real challenge, especially in the larger airports. If you know the gate you will have to go to, ask the flight attendant for advice to reach that gate quickly. In some airports - like Atlanta - a Delta connection can be a huge adventure taking 30 minutes to get from one gate to another. If you know in advance how you have to get to your next airplane, it will be much less chaotic when you get off the first plane. And a much more relaxing walk (or run) to your next gate.
12) When the plane lands, patiently wait your turn. Whether you push or just wait, you usually won't get off the plane any quicker. People tend to let the folks in the rows before them get up and go in a pretty orderly fashion. Trying to rush it will only get your blood pressure up and will not be looked upon favorably by your fellow travelers.
13) If you just have carry on baggage, you have successfully completed a pretty stress free flight.
14) But if you have carry on luggage, there is one more step - waiting for the luggage. Just pick a place around the conveyor belt and wait. Expect your bag to be the very last one to come out and be pleasantly surprised when it comes out early.

By following these simple steps, you will find that your stress levels from your air travels will be much less. A well planned trip agenda ensures that those little stress points stay little stress points and don't balloon into a full blown crisis. Try it any you will be amazed how just a small amount of up front planning dramatically improves the enjoyment of your travel.


Lanzarote Beaches - Arrecife

Arrecife is the smallest of the islands seven municipalities and house the islands new capital (having taken over the mantel from Teguise at the end of the 18th century). Like neighbouring San Bartholme, there are relatively few beaches in this area, although the two that follow are well a visit.

Arrecife (the name originates from the abundance of reefs and islets along its short coast), has a skyline totally dominated by the islands tallest building (the Grand Hotel) which you may have seen during your approach to the airport. The first beach is known as El Reducto, a picturesque European Union, ‘Blue Flag’ beach set in an almost enclosed bay and measuring half a kilometre by 45m wide with calm waters and fine golden sands.
To one end of the beach you will find a park with palm trees and benches designed as a monument of a ship wreck. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, this beach is for you as it is frequented only by locals rather than tourists.

As you would expect from a ‘city beach’, El Reducto boasts excellent services from its coastal promenade including showers, public telephones, bar/restaurants, wheelchair access , parking and is easily reached by guaguas (autobus). One of the major attractions of this beach is the "Charco de San Gines” lagoon, a natural pond formed by sea water housing a collection of small boats belonging to inshore fishermen, who live around the lagoon.

The beach was landscaped in conjunction with the Cesar Manrique who grew up in this area and who held his first exhibition in the San gines Lagoon area.
If you’re planning a trip here or to neighbouring El Cable Beach (below), check to find out if there are any festivals going on at the time as these offer a unique authentic insight into canarian life on the island.
The second and final beach in Arrecife is just along the costs and is known as El Cable. It measures 315m.long and 18m wide and consists of fine golden sand. El Cable is windy with moderate waves which makes it good for windsurfing and be found next to the development of the same name.
The beach can be prone to local pollution which puts it off limits from time to time. Services include showers, public telephones and bars/restaurants. It is easy to park locally.

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Lanzarote Beaches - Teguise

Teguise is one of the largest and most popular of Lanzarotes seven municipalities. It includes Famara (in the north) and Costa Teguise, (in the south).

If your mathematical formula for fun on the beach is “Water=Waves”, then you should be heading for the northern coastline that takes in Famara (and neighbouring La Santa – See article “13 Lanzarote beaches – Tinajo”).
Our first of six beaches being reviewed in this area is known as Famara, measuring 6 kilometres long by 100 m (the biggest beach in Lanzarote). Fine golden sand, a constant wind and ever present strong swells against a backdrop of mountains makes this worth visiting, but the strong currents in this area can be a problem, so keep small children well within your reach.

The surf in this part of the island is world famous (so it’s hardly surprising that Famara is often referred to as the Hawaii of Europe). Large waves crash into the beach, and roll up the fine white sand towards the beach road, making it a surfers paradise. Behind the road you’ll find a large area of sand dunes, a perfect sheltered base from which to view proceedings.

The village nearby has a few restaurants and cafe bars where you can enjoy a quiet drink – but it’s all very laid back and has a UK/Sunday feel about the whole place.

Close to the village of La Caleta, it can be reached by guaguas (autobus).
Our second beach takes us to a semi-developed area known as Ensenada de la Calleta, 400m long by 12 m wide and fine white sand. This beach is located alongside Arrecife and the port area of Mármoles. This beach is much visited, for its calm waters despite the wind that blows constantly. You can reach this beach by guaguas (autobus) and there are several services available including hammocks/parasols, restaurants/bars, parking and showers.

Our third beach is known as Las Cucharas and is in the main holiday resort of Costa Teguise. This sheltered beach is 640m long consisting of fine sand and placid waters., surrounded by big hotels and apartments where architecture and landscape have been harmoniously integrated. The beach is nevertheless ideal for windsurfing and offers a full range of services from hammocks/parasols to bars/restaurants along its promenade to telephones, parking, good wheelchair access, bus stop and rental of a wide range of sports equipment.

Our fourth beach, another Costa Teguise favourite, is known as Los Charcos. At 250 m long and 30m wide and consisting of fine white sand, clear water and cooling winds, it’s hardly surprising. This beach is is on the coastline alongside Puerto del Carmen (covered in another article of mine entitled “12 Lanzarote Beaches – Tias”). The tranquillity of the sea in this area is due to the breakwater which shelters it from the strong waves and currents. There is a docking area and seaside boardwalk, together with services including hammocks/parasols, parking, quaquas (autobus).

Our fifth beach is known as Bastián, 375m long, 15m wide, consisting of fine white sand mixed with gravel and clear water. This beach is situated in a semi-developed zone of Costa Teguise and offers a complete range of services that include hammocks/parasols, parking, guaguas (autobus) and finally, our sixth beach is El Jablillo, 350m.long, 20m wide, fine white sand mixed with gravel with quiet waters in a relatively windy area. Services include telephones, parking, guaguas (autobus) and a range of bars & restaurants.


Lanzarote Beaches - Haria

Haria is the most northern of Lanzarotes seven municipalities. It can thank the Sahara Desert and strong winds for what some regard as Lanzarote finest beaches.

The entire coastline is known as Malpaís de la Corona (“badlands”) and is strewn with white and golden sand which mingles intimately with volcanic magma forming small sheltered bays (a number of which are featured in this article), which are ideal for swimming. This preominently rural area harbours many of the natural marvels of Lanzarote such as Jameos del Agua and La Cueva de Los Verdes (See my related article 23xx on these attractions).
Our first of five beaches being reviewed in this area is known as El Caletón Blanco (“The big inlet”) measuring half a kilometre long and 9 m. wide, consisting of fine white sand.

Camping is also permitted on the beach, but you’ll need to get prior municipal approval at the Lanzarote Town Council (Cabildo). There is ample space for parking and the guaguas (autobus) also stops here.

Our second beach is known as El Risco, measuring 845m long and 8m wide and consisting of fine white sand. This beach gets very windy, although Isla Graciosa shelters it to a degree from the rougher seas. It is a 400m climb down (and back up !), so not for the faint hearted. The waves are moderate.

Our third Beach is known as Caleta Caballo, measuring 60 m long and 7m wide and consisting of white sand with pebbles. It is windy with moderate waves offering good conditions for windsurfing. This is accessible by guaguas (autobus).

Our fourth Beach in this area is known as Caleta del Mojón, measuring 100 m long and 13m wide and consisting of fine white sand and picon (the small black lava stones often found in gardens).

Our fifth and final Beach in this area is known as La Garita, measuring 810m long and 5m wide and consisting of fine white/golden sand. Calm waters make this a good practising ground before you take on the stronger waves elsewhere in the area. Unlike the other rural beaches, this one is in a semi-urban area, has a boardwalk and services such as restaurants, refreshment stands, telephones, parking area, washrooms and even a children’s play area. It is accessible by guaguas (autobus).

20 Safety Tips for Budget Travelers

1) When taking taxis from an airport to your hotel, travel in the more expensive airport taxis and ensure that the drivers have official identification. Never take a taxi waiting outside the airport grounds.

I know this sounds extreme, but it is by far better to be safe then sorry.

2) When traveling from your hotel to the airport, go with a taxi recommended by the hotel.

Again, taxi’s can be very dangerous. I can’t express that enough.

3) Try not to arrive in a new city or town late at night.

This can just go wrong in a number of ways. It is much easier getting checked in during the day time and security at night in certain areas is just horrendous.

4) Travel in a group if possible.

Since when is traveling in numbers not a good idea?

5) Learn the basics in the local language before you arrive. Don't expect that people will speak English.

English is becoming more widely spoken these days, but you want to be sure. You should always check on these things before your arrival.

6) Keep your valuables hidden.

A money belt is great if it is an option that you willing to look into. There are many different styles of money belt. One of the most popular is an “over the shoulder” style wallet on a strap that you were underneath your top. This makes it very difficult for a thief to make off with your valuables.

7) Avoid going on your own to remote areas/ruins where tourist would be expected to go. Seek local advice or take a guide.

8) Read the guide books and talk with other tourists to find out which areas are best avoided.

9) When leaving discos late at night take a taxi home no matter how close your hostel is. Outside most discos you'll find a street vendor selling cigarettes. Usually these people know all the taxi drivers and can recommend a safe one.

10) When arriving in a new town, keep to your original plan and stay in the hostel that you have decided on. Don't let the taxi driver persuade you that your hostel is fully booked and that he knows a cheaper and better one. He'll be working on commission and the hostel probably won't be in a safe part of town.

11) Even better, when arriving lane/train in a new city, try to reserve your hotel in advance, preferably with a hotel that has an airport/station collection service.

12) Don't wear expensive looking jewelry.

13) On public transport have your day pack close to you at all times, preferably with the straps around your legs or padlocked to the luggage rack. On buses your backpack will normally go outside, either on top of the roof or in the external luggage compartments. On long distance buses ask for a receipt for your bags. On short rides just keep a careful eye out each time the bus stops to off-load bags. In the event of having your bags stolen, stay with the bus - you will probably require a declaration from the bus company accepting responsibility for the loss in order to claim any money from your insurance company.

14) Leave your valuables in your hotel safe when making day trips or longer tours. Obtain a receipt not just for your money belt/wallet etc. but for its contents, with each item listed.

15) If you have to leave your passport and credits cards together, place the credit card in a sealed envelope and sign your name across the flap. This way when you return you will know that nothing has been tampered with.

16) If planning on going to market areas, crowded streets, fiestas etc. don't go with all your valuables. Leave them in the hotel. If you’re planning on buying something expensive keep your money safely in a money belt. Try to be discreet when opening it! To protect small change in your pockets you can stuff a handkerchief in after.

17) If the pavements are really crowded, especially in market areas, walk in the road.

18) If you suspect someone is following you, stop and stare them in the eye until they go. If you really get a bad feeling about a place, go with your first instincts and leave. Bag slashing is rare nowadays but for added safety you can wear your day pack on your chest.

19) If it's on your back try to walk without stopping. If you need to stop, sway your pack gently from side to side so that you can feel if anyone is tampering with it.

20) When putting your bag down on the floor, to take a photo or just to sit in a café, remember to put your foot through the strap. Not only will it be impossible to snatch, you also won't forget it! This is the most common type of theft - tourists forgetting bags in cafes and on returning to ask if anyone has seen it, you've guessed it, it's gone.

Lanzarote Attractions - Timanfaya

The Montañas del Fuego (Fire Mountains), to give them there proper name were created in the 1730’s when more than 100 volcanos in what is now the National Park, rose up to devastate the southern part of the island. Eruptions lasted for six years and several villages were completely destroyed. The last eruption on the island was in 1824.

Because Lanzarote has such low rainfall (and therefore a lack of erosion) the area appears much as it did at the time and in 1968 the area was declared a national park “Parque Nacional de Timanfaya”.

We decided to make a full day of this trip and we firmly believe that this a must see for any visitor to the island, because of its unique 'martian' landscape and rare plant species. On entry to the national park (entrance was around 8 euros per person, as I recall, and the small children were free as is usual at many of the islands attractions), the first thing to catch our eye were camels and of course we had to stop because the children wanted a ride !

An hour or so later, we arrived at the Car park of the Islote de Hilario, where we saw a crowd of people standing around a hole. This was to be the first of two quite stunning demonstrations of just how hot the area is just below the ground. We were told that temperatures a few metres below ground are a staggering 400°C to 600°C.

Dry bushes were thrown into a hole and in less than a minute, it caught fire !

Water was then poured into a bore hole and seconds later the water erupted back into the air as steam and we all got a warm shower because we were standing on the wrong side.

Next up was the 'El Diablo' restaurant, another creation of the famous artist (Cesar Manrique), whose influence is everywhere on the island. Here we find traditional Canarian food cooked using geothermal heat (A cast-iron grill placed over a large hole in the ground). Where else in the world can you get your food cooked on a volcano !

We then went on a coach trip of the National Park (part of the entrance fee). If your feeling a little queasy or don’t like heights don’t sit by the window as it can be quite scary (but very safe and the children absolutely loved it). The coach stops at several strategic points in order that you can get some amazing pictures and film (so don’t forget to take the camera/video with you). During the trip we listened to recorded narration based on words captured by the priest of Yaiza at the time of the eruptions.

Another great day and another great attraction.

Lanzarote Attractions - Mirador Del Rio, Jameous Del Agua and La Cueva de los Verdes

It is possible to do these three attractions in a single day providing you set out early and plan your day.

As we live in Playa Blanca, we travelled north on the LZ-2 via San Bartholme and Teguise into the mountains in the north where we made our first stop at the Mirador Del Rio. This is a cafeteria cut into the mountains in the north and has the most spectacular views of the island you could possible want to see, so a camera is a must.

After a drink and a snack, we continued North and then turned at the top of the island and made our descent to sea level, where we saw an array of different coloured sands blown across the sea from the Sahara desert. If you are into beaches, you might want to stop off here to explore the many bays on offer.

Shortly after this we arrived at our second attraction, the Jameos del Agua. Enchanting, Mystical & Magical, the three most common words used to describe a place created as a result of a formation of gas explosions within a volcanic bubble. Over the years, seawater has flooded the tunnels so that eventually a lagoon has been left behind. A lagoon that is home to thousands of tiny white crabs that have become blind through many years of living in poor light, a lagoon that has a bar and a restaurant and even a nightclub three times a week !

Almost next door, we found our second attraction of the day - La Cueva de los Verdes, one of the longest volcanic galleries in the world at 6km long and there is surprise element to this tour which I cannot tell you about otherwise it would spoil your visit. You need to be reasonably fit and healthy as you need to climb several stairs and bend over in order to get under many low recesses. It is impossible to take a pushchair into the caves, so go prepared.
We had an hour to kill at the end of the day, so we stopped off at the Jardin de Cactus which is on the way back. Here we saw 1,400 different species all planted together in a small area of land to create the beautiful Cactus Garden.
A great day out and the children really enjoyed it and they slept like logs that night !


A Basic Traveller’s Kit Guide

Never be caught unprepared during a trip. Plan ahead and stuff your bag with essentials things you need. The better prepared you are, the more fun you will have on the trip. Here’s a checklist of what should be inside your traveler’s kit.

*Medicine Kit
Never assume that no mishaps will happen on a trip. Even minor bruises should be taken care of. Always keep your first- aid kit handy.

Treating wounds
Bring along a roll of bandage, safety pins and scissors. Tweezers might be needed to pull out foreign materials that penetrate the skin. Bring ointments and alcohols for treating abrasions. If you are prone to allergies and itching, antihistamine medications like Benadryl should be handy.

Common medicine
Carry along medicines that you are likely to use, like aspirin for headaches, laxative for proper bowel movement and pain relievers. If you have a runny nose, buy a couple of decongestant. Dehydration and motion sickness is common when traveling, consult your doctor on which medicine is appropriate for you.

Prescription drugs
Remember to bring along whatever medication you are taking. Bring enough supply to last for the entire trip.

*Personal Hygiene Kit
This kit must include all your toiletries. This will keep you looking fresh all the time.

Dental
Bring along your toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss. Buy a small bottled mouthwash or if you have plenty of supply left, just transfer it to a smaller container.

Hair
Carry along your favorite brush, comb and shampoo. Stuff in your hair spray, hair cream and gels if you are using one.

Personal effects
This will include your make-up kit. Remember to bring only the cosmetics that you are likely to use. Carry with you a handy mirror. You can bring your manicure set too.

Skin protection
Keep your skin healthy by putting on sunscreen and lip balm as often as you need them.

Bathroom needs
Bring along with you sets of toilet papers, soaps, towels and washcloth.

*Emergency Kit
This includes the stuff you might need like flashlights, lighters, pocket knife and duct tapes. Mobile phones are important in case of emergency, be sure to bring your charger and an extra battery.

*Leisure Kit
For added fun, you can bring along your travel journal, reading materials and the locale’s language book. Make the most out of fantastic views with your binoculars and your camera.

There is no such thing as a standard traveler’s kit. It varies upon the place and the activities you’ll do in a certain place. The above kits are basically the essentials. Be sure to keep everything checked and have a fun trip ahead!

A Day At Koh Larn

Visiting Koh Larn, or the coral island is a great change of pace from Pattaya.

My first trip to Koh Larn was a spur of the moment mini-adventure. I was talking with a young lady in a bar and she asked me where I had visited in Thailand. I rattled off a bunch of cities from north to south and then she asked if I had ever been to Koh Larn. I told her no and she said she had never been either.

It was decided then and there that we would take the short trip the next day. We spent the night together and made arrangements for the boat ride and tour at one of the many street vendor tour ladies.

We booked for a 10 AM boat ride and we were told we would be back at about 4 PM. The price was a whopping 10 US dollars each and this included lunch.

We walked down from Second Road to Beach Road and met out small, longboat that would take us out to the bigger boat for the trip to Koh Larn.

But first, we stopped at a square dock and were offered a kite-flying ride for an additional ten dollars. We declined but watched a couple of the others from our boat get the short round the dock ride.

We then boarded a bigger boat and chugged on out to the island. The ride took about 45 minutes and we were met by another small, long boat to get us to shore. This boat had a glass bottom to observe the coral, but the water was too murky to see anything.

We got ashore and since this was a spur of the moment trip, I bought my girl a swimsuit. We staked out a patch of beach and got 2 lounge chairs for about one dollar for the day for both and just kicked back and relaxed.

The water was clean and refreshing and we just splashed about and lay around on the chairs. We were offered a variety of sea activities from underwater walking to banana boat rides. We declined and just took it easy.

We were served lunch with the rest of the group and it was OK but nothing special. Rice, pork, French fries and a cold drink.

There were a handful of vendors trying to sell their wares but they were not pests. They came by once and left with a smile when I declined.

At about 3 PM it was time to head back. We took the small boat to the bigger boat and relaxed and listened to some music on the way back. The boat moved at a snail's pace and there was just enough of a breeze to keep things cool.

We met the small boat and were taken back to Pattaya Beach. I dropped my smart card off at the photo processing place and showered, changed, picked up the photos and went back to her bar.

I gave her a set of the pictures to show her friends and to keep for herself. All in all a very nice day that set me back $20 for the trip and another $10 to get her a bathing suit.

A day in Florence between food and art

Let’s start with wine bars and cafes! In Italy bars are literally on every corner. Do not confuse them with the classic American bars. Italian bars ( or caffè) serve café, cappuccinos, hot chocolates, tea, light snacks and aperitifs. We recommend in particular 2 historic places.

The Gilli which is a wine bar and restaurant and since 1733 it has been serving also all kinds of treats and light meals.. (Piazza della Repubblica,ph: +39 055 213 896). And just in front the Giubbe Rosse Cafè where you can have brunch from 9€ or a complete menu from 18€ ( Piazza della Repubblica 13/14; ph: +39 055 212 280).

Tip: a coffee is way too cheaper (up to 1€) at the counter that at your sit at the table. In this way you can enjoy a good coffee-break in fantastic places without spending a fortune!

Once stuffed with an excellent Italian Breakfast with cappuccino and brioche you are ready to visit the Uffizi Museum, probably the reason why you got your flight ticket to Florence!

Palazzo Vecchio (Uffizi) is an amazing palace set just around Piazza della Signoria, once the centre of political power and city life. Just behind there is the spectacular Ponte Vecchio housing numerous antique and modern jewellery shops and the Signoria open arched gallery

In the Uffizi Gallery you can enjoy Italian masterpieces from Medieval period to Modern. Just to give you some masters’ names: you will be meeting Leonardo, Michelangelo, Botticelli and Caravaggio.

There are also periodic modern art exhibitions Check the official website to get all info and the ticket reservations to avoid extenuate queues. The main entrance is under the portico of the Palazzo degli Uffizi 6 and it is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8.15am until 6.35pm (last entry 6pm). Admission: €9.50 (plus €3 to online reservations); concessions available. (uffizi.firenze.it). One of the best ways to reach the city centre is to get the n. 23 bus or line B.

To get an affordable accommodation while in Florence you can check the following nice Bed and Breakfast ( B&B) providing clean accommodations and friendly atmosphere. The Abatjour B&B close to the train station, Soggiorno Primavera, the central B&B Cinque Sensi, Althea rooms B&B, Cimarosa Armony BB, a Casa di Dante BB; Bed and Breakfast tourist house, Bed and breakfast Montebello B&B. Usually a double room costs around 50-70 euros per night.

If you prefer a guest house or a budget hotel you can try this selection where the prices are very good for the quality and the services they offer. Hotel Castri which is set in a Renascent villa with a green park, hotel Palazzuolo, hotel Guelfa, il Ghiro guest house. There are also studios and apartments or upper scale hotels where you start form 50 euros per person per night at the Gemini Studio, Alex house, Leopolda hotel, hotel Autopark, hotel Erina, Alamanni Hotel, Hotel Beatrice, Goldoni hotel. This prices are for a night stay and they are subject to changings but in general they include breakfast, linen and towels.


A Guide For A More Enjoyable Train Travel

Although traveling by air is the fastest way to move from places to place while traveling by car is convenient and comfortable and traveling by bus is the cheapest, not one of them can be compared to the unique experience trail travel could give.

Trail travel might not be the most popular way people move. This could be because of the length a trip could take compared to air traveling. Another reason could be the monotony of sights that might bring boredom to passengers. Another could be the price one single train travel could cost compared when taking a bus. All these contribute to the decreasing popularity of train travel but it does not mean that train travel is not good at all. In fact, with a little wit and personal creativity, one could enjoy train travel.

1. Expect to travel for long hours. In this way, you don’t have to look at your timepiece regularly or ask a crew with the most annoying question you also would not want to hear: “Are we there yet?” Keep in mind that if you are crossing state boarders, train travel could take more hours than driving your own car at your own phase. And sometimes, train schedules are not met so you don’t have to nag every crew with the train schedule.

2. Relax and enjoy the scenery. If you are traveling during daytime, you could see sights that might not be possible to see if you are traveling by plane, bus or car. Try to enjoy the scenery. You can even bring binoculars to help you see more views closer.

3. If you are a reader, this is the best time to read. Trains are more stable than bus. So if you would like to read without controlling the motion of your hand with the book, the train could provide you with stability. Bring a book of your favorite author. You can also consider finalizing your report if you are going to present it on meetings.

4. If you are not into sightseeing and reading, you can bring your portable CD player or iPod. Bring your most favorite albums you could bring. Or, if you have an iPod, you can store all your songs to your library. Make sure you have spare batteries.

5. Be friendly and polite. If a person asks favors from you, be more than willing to do it. Train travel would offer you new acquaintances and friends.

6. Do not intrude other people’s business in the best way you could. Respect other people’s privacy.

7. Talk to the crew nicely. Although they would not throw you off the train if you shout to them, doing such is not proper. They are well trained and very friendly, be nice to the crew.

8. Take time to meet other people. Since you expect to be on the train for several hours especially if you are crossing state borders, you wont be doing so much. You can roam around the train and meet other people. This is the best time to have someone to talk to.

9. If in case you are traveling with your children, make sure you provide them with lots of activities. Bring along activity books, quiet toys, color pens, crayons, papers, reading material, coloring books, and video games. In this way, you keep them entertained.

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