Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Bottling up that Holiday Spirit

Monday, April 20th, 2015

We have all experienced something that we commonly call the ‘post holiday blues’. The holiday may have been planned for a while and so your life has been full of the excitement of its arrival – but suddenly, it’s over and things are threatening to get back to normal! It’s a hard slog to get back into that daily rhythm that you paid good money to escape from.

But we have six suggestions that we think might help. Some of these you can do in advance of the trip – and some on your way home. You might even find that some of these tips could put you on a new direction!

  • Springtime Sunshine
    It’s never nice to come home to a messy house after some time away, but imagine coming back to a house that is sparkling in the light of the springtime sunshine! Why not invest in a good Spring Clean? Get a local cleaning company in to give your house the once-over just before you go away, or if you can leave the task in the hands of a trusted friend, have them do it whilst you are away!
  • Let us add some Sparkle
    Consider the same for your car. Whilst you leave it in our car park we can provide a professional valet at any of our Airparks car parks and we’ll have it sparkling for your return! Packages vary between sites, but normally there are three different types of valet – bronze, silver, and gold. Some sites have platinum packages. They all start from just £10.
  • Look on the Bright Side
    On your way home, write a list of the benefits of the good side to the end of the holidays:
  • You’ve had an opportunity to rest and relax, you have been able to do things that are different to your usual routine – which is good for the spirit and providing you with the chance to rejuvenate.
  • You may have managed to get some fresh air and exercise if you have been walking, skiing or taking part in water sports? Maybe you should challenge yourself to keep up the good work and continue it at home. Exercise will give you the mood-boost you need.
  • Perhaps you have managed to get some time to get a new perspective on your work/life balance or your relationships. Are there some changes to be made
  • Finally, make those changes – realistic changes of course! Time away can often highlight the things that you really want to change in your life, be it for anything from sorting out your finances, redecorating your home, or dealing with the any negativities.
  • Do it all Again?
    Your holiday may have been to get away from your everyday life – but it was most probably full of interesting people, from the locals, to friends, partners or family. As humans it is important for us to be around people when we feel low, so lift your spirits by continuing to stay connected with friends and family. Put some dates in the diary to spend time with them, plan some days out for when you return, or maybe book another small holiday to look forward to?
  • Let us be the Parker to your Lady Penelope
    As if coming home isn’t bad enough – the fuss and bother with passport control queues, collecting luggage, and finding your way to the transfer bus can really add to the post holiday downer. With the Airparks Return Greet service, you can remove the need for a return transfer. All you need to do is step off the plane, collect your luggage and give us a call to say you’re back. A qualified driver will then bring your car from our secured car park and deliver it to you at the airport within minutes. (You can also have the same service to the start of the holiday too!)
  • Eat those Blues Away!
    Has your holiday been a little over-indulgent? Although we enjoy eating all those naughty foods and tasting all those delicious wines or rich coffees, it actually doesn’t make our body very happy! It can leave you feeling a little out of shape and worse for wear in the nutrition department – so eat away your blues with foods that boost your serotonin (feel good) neurotransmitters including bananas, poultry, dairy produce, and peas.

High Flyer, Low Battery

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

A Guide to Emergency and Portable Phone Chargers

We have all been there – phone out of charge, with an important call awaited or the need to look up directions to a meeting. That’s bad enough in your everyday life, but if you are abroad with no real idea or possibility of finding a mains power source you are clearly headed up a muddy creek with no paddles left in the shop!

When you travel with Airparks, we try to make things as easy as possible for you – particularly if your trip is for business. That’s why we provide all of our customers with free wifi in our buses and in the car parks; it’s easy to access, it’s fast and it’s exactly what you want when you are on the move. We also have free wifi and internet access in our airport lounges as well as the opportunity to charge your phone before you fly.

But whether you travel for leisure or business, it is important that you have planned ahead.

  • Made sure that your device is fully charged at the outset
  • That you are carrying a mains charger to fit whatever mains outlets you expect to find, as well as USB and car sockets
  • Be aware of how you use your device and how much power those functions consume – kill unused screens and the Bluetooth, don’t play games or watch video!
  • Limit your use to what is essential if you need to make it last!
  • There are many other solutions available to back up your battery or provide an alternative means of charging. We have listed five choices that you may find it useful to invest in before your trip.

Some of these draw power from an off-the-shelf battery and convert it for phone use (becoming less popular); others are pre-charged from a USB source to be carried as a spare for when the need arises. These are fast becoming the most common with the element of choice being ‘how big do you want it?’.

Remember – ‘you get what you pay for’ so try before you travel! You need to know that your system works, how quickly, and what limitations it may have.

You will find the more basic back-up’s in a wide range of shops or online; if you need something more than ‘basic’, a good first port-of-call is Power Traveller who market a wide range of ‘chimp’, ‘monkey’ and ‘gorilla’ devices across the price and size range.

Battery transformers

These commonly use one or more AA batteries (you will therefore need some of those in your bag!) Rapidly falling from favour as USB/rechargeable based devices become increasingly available.

Maplins stock this basic AA battery model for just £2.69

USB-charged back-up batteries

All computer monitors and most TV’s will have a USB socket nowadays; as well as allowing data to flow, they provide a small power source. Ask before connecting to somebody’s computer though!

For £59.99 via Amazon, the ANKER Astro Pro2 can take a charge from USB or mains sources and provide up to 9 full charges for your phone – or even one charge for a laptop.

The Monster Power Card (around £30) is a credit-card sized back-up battery that should give you the charge when you need it for very little size or weight.

The Nomad Chargekey is a novel design, fits on your keyring, and retails for around £20. One end fits a USB socket, the other fits your iPhone. Simples!

Alternative Power Sources

You won’t need bright sunshine but you will need a decent amount of light. This might seem obvious, but if you will be travelling by day and static at night you’ll need to plan how you will charge on the move. The independence may come at a higher price but is very worthwhile. Remember that in a group you can share the charger, and also between devices – so it can still be cost effective.

For £65 the Powermonkey Explorer can charge your phone and other devices.

Destination Chocolate

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

As Easter fast approaches, one thing is sure to be on the mind of every child, woman and man – CHOCOLATE. The world over, there are shops and cafes offering a chocolate experience; every major city has one, and an internet search will set your plans in motion. Meanwhile here are a few ideas!

Cadbury World

Perhaps the UK’s best know choco-fest destination and just 25 min drive from our Birmingham Airparks carpark. For decades visitors have been touring the factory and sampling the Dairy Milk, and learning about the history and origins of chocolate. Click here for more info!


Easy to get to especially by Eurostar train, Bruges offers a host of high-quality continental chocolate shops and a museum. See the processing of the dark brown deliciousness on marble slabs and purchase the most incredible confections. The shop window displays are amazing too!

M&M World

If you are in London and passing by Leicester Square, take a look in the Wonka-esque M&M World. On several floors this is a chocolate and sugar scented department store or primary-coloured fun. Not quite Easter egg territory, but well worth a look!


Simply, if you are searching for ‘class’ in chocolat, visit Paris, and wander the incredible shops and cafes. Expensive? Yes. Are you worth it? Definitely!


One of the world’s primary sources of cocoa, wouldn’t you love to get right to the beginnings of the chocolate journey and tour production farms and research institutes, and meet the people who grow the beans that eventually become the product on the shop shelves? Well, good news! You can go on a tour of the whole thing.

Switzerland – The Chocolate Train

This one really catches the imagination – Switzerland, trains and chocolate! Travelling on a scenic route this venture between the Rail Company and Nestle offers views and chocolate – when can I go?

Chocolate Hotel Bournemouth

A hotel with a difference, specialising in tasting and understanding chocolate, with the welcome addition of wine and a seaside location.


Enjoy a Chocolate Ecstasy Tour in London around Mayfair and Chelsea, sampling chocolates, truffles and hot choc drinks, with a little walking in between to salve the conscience.

Grindstone Getaway – 8 Tips to Switch off and Re-Charge

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

There’s nothing like the feeling of pressing the ‘book it now’ button when you’ve found the holiday you like, well – until the glorious moment that you fill in your annual leave form at work, that is.

The sparkle of that approaching holiday is something that can get you through the days at your desk gazing out of the window at someone enjoying a coffee with friends (why aren’t they at work?) or the photos of your Facebook friends at happy-hour somewhere tropical, or even moments in a grey boardroom.

It’s all wonderful….until the holiday is actually upon you. Suddenly the work ramps up, emails flood in, meetings you HAVE to attend coincide with your last day in the office. Swiftly the thought crosses your mind that you cannot possibly go on holiday.

It’s important to remember that you should be able to take time off without being or feeling compromised.

A holiday allows the mind and body to recover from the mental and physical pressures of your job. But the concept of ‘switching off’ is stressful. The lack of control means that a mobile device is often a way of ‘touching base’.

During the holiday, the thought of getting back to the daily grind can have you weighed down with dread, knowing that the second you cross the office threshold you’ll be hit with 100 ‘urgent’ tasks and an inbox full of emails.

German vehicle-maker Daimler has an innovative approach to staff taking holidays and being bothered by their technology. Email their staff while on leave and you’ll get a message that says; “I am on vacation. I cannot read your email. Your email is being deleted. Please contact Hans or Monika if it’s really important, or resend the email after I’m back in the office.”

The auto-delete policy – which is optional – follows a piece of government-funded research on work-life balance, which Daimler carried out in 2010 and 2011 with psychologists from the University of Heidelberg. The company now trains managers to set a good work-life example. Daimler’s move follows Volkswagen’s decision to turn email off after office hours and new guidelines in France ordering workers in some sectors to ignore work emails when they go home.

Andy Dallas, Associate Director of Robert Half UK works with leading companies to locate highly skilled professionals in the areas of finance & accounting. He says; “With global technology these days it doesn’t matter whether you are on the other side of the world or not. Many professionals feel chained to their desks, mentally and virtually. But if you are willing to work on holiday does that automatically make you a good employee? Not always. Working while you are away contradicts the idea of annual leave – to re-motivate and re-energise.”

With this in mind, here are some top tips to prepare, switch off and enjoy a stress-free holiday:

  • Provide plenty of notice of your leave and remind everyone regularly of the date you go.
  • Block out your time and prioritise what needs to be done before you go. Stop making giant to-do lists or flagging “urgent” emails. Instead look at your days left and figure out where you have blocks of time to really focus and engage on what needs to be done before you go. Tie up those loose ends – don’t create new ones!
  • Reduce meeting time lengths in the week before you go. Announce that you are going on holiday and that only things that need to be done before you leave take priority.
  • Learn to delegate. Identify exactly what needs to be done and by when and provide a thorough handover! You’ll be less stressed knowing that somebody capable is covering your work. Supplying a thorough and complete handover will also help to display leadership potential to your employers. Make sure you leave yourself a note of what you have given to whom – it’s amazing how time away can erase some of that detail.
  • Set up an ‘Out of Office’ alert in your email inbox, informing people you are away and when you will return. But make sure that you have given polite warning to clients that this will be the case. It helps to develop and maintain relationships.
  • If emails that came through at the start of holiday haven’t been dealt with by the time you return and no-one has ‘kicked off’ and is waiting at your office door when you do, then they probably weren’t that important anyway. Start with the most recent and work backwards. The email replies to correspondence 2-weeks old can be amusing – in future, they’ll think twice before emailing when you’re on holiday again.
  • The first few days back will be busy, so with this in mind, don’t overcommit to meetings or new projects. Trying to cram too much could have consequences impact negatively upon your work.
  • Book yourself a special treat or two to look forward to when you return, such as a Valet Service and Greet Service from Airparks.

Whi oh Whi!? Getting to Grips with Gripes about Free Wifi

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Free wifi may well be a modern age miracle, but it’s also a great source of annoyance to many of its users – but is that through a lack of understanding in some cases? A recent question posed on facebook said; ‘What is your biggest gripe when it comes to using free wifi?’ This is what they said;

You nearly always have to ask for the code. Why not write it under the wifi symbol on menus.
4 March at 22:16

McDonald’s like other places expect you to register with them and share some of your information/details. I personally don’t like that and didn’t avail of their wifi whether it was free or not.
4 March at 22:17

Having to log in and thus giving details out.
4 March at 22:23

Not enough gumption! Holiday parks with so called wifi do not have the man power to cope with demand where there is no other signal!
4 March at 22:25

Businesses will always want your data to sign up, that’s effectively why they are doing it after all. Cheryl is bang on though, if you’re going to offer it at least make it work.
4 March at 22:28

yep, the not working, everything loading at a snails pace and having to log on all the time, makes me not bother
4 March at 22:42

Not enough power to send emails so having to opt for data usage anyway, if that makes sense.
4 March at 22:44

Oh and our local shopping centre gives you just 1 hour of free wifi then you’re cut off.
4 March at 22:48

There’s a scheme in Australia at the moment rolling out nationwide on the coast by a phone company called Telstra. You get free WiFi at any phone box and you don’t need to give any details.
5 March at 00:24

Sloooooow. Some are not worth using. Our sports Club won’t let you use your 3G in the building, you can ONLY use their wifi which involves creating an account – annoying. Most hotels’ wifi is fantastic & v fast.
5 March at 06:06

Hotels who now offer free wifi tend to only provide a very basic service i.e. slow speeds, disconnecting regularly etc, and then suggest you upgrade to their paid option.
5 March at 07:27

    At Airparks we provide all of our customers with free wifi in our buses and in the car parks themselves, its easy to access, it’s fast and it’s exactly what you want when you are on the move. We find it helps our travellers to send those last few messages to friends and family, check the weather at their destination, post one last message to colleagues stuck back in the office, or to finish off some work before they have to shut down electronics on board their aeroplane.

    But what are the myths and the truths behind free wifi. The cynic would say that there is no such thing as ‘free’ wifi – after all nobody offers something for nothing, do they? Originally of course, wifi hotspots were sought after and the access to them was a great pull to those looking for a spot to lunch or have coffee. But nowadays you can supposedly wander from zone to zone across town and access it wherever you like, but how do you avoid all the dangers? Are you likely to be digitally mugged?

    No matter how irritating it is putting those passwords and details in, it is much safer to do it! Tempting though it might be, do not connect to an unsecured network. If your smartphone automatically connects to a hotspot run by an identity thief then you have given them the best chance at accessing your private data – including all your passwords. Plus, without checking you’re using that safe connection, someone across the room could run a piece of free software that sniffs every bit passing over the network and grab passwords, credit card numbers and more!

    Wireless hotspots are essential these days. But you wouldn’t sit in a cafe with your purse in an easy-to-grab place. If you use public wifi at Airparks, in the airport, hotel room and abroad, awareness and encryption are paramount and the right connection and given password is one way to ensure you are safe online. Plus, when you are connected and browsing the web, if the web address displayed by your browser starts with HTTPS, you’re safe. If not, everything is potentially exposed to the baddies.

    But with these secure provided networks come the annoyances and the disadvantages. Many of these public wifis are designed as a data collection engines. You may be asked to put in your email address, your date of birth and your full name. Some people have set up a specific email account – such as in Hotmail – to use as a ‘login details’ account specifically for this purpose. It means that their true email account is not subjected to the spam that this process might incur.

    But why register details in the first place? Usually it helps protect you from nasty viruses and fraud and more often than not, legally they need to ask people to register some information before using the service to comply with European Data Retention directives. This information might, in case of anything illegal, be made available to authorities as required, but unless they state otherwise in the terms and conditions shouldn’t be shared with any third party companies.

    Quick Tips

    • For webmail or other sites that require a login password, ensuring there is an “https” in the website address means that the data you send and receive is protected from sniffers and snoopers.
    • If you use Outlook or another desktop email program, adjust your account settings to require a secure connection when sending or receiving mail.
    • Online banking or purchasing is usually encrypted as is Gmail, Yahoo Mail,, and Facebook. Be aware though that some sites offer a secure login page, but after you’re logged in, they revert to non-encrypted mode!
    • Always read the terms and conditions that are presented to you before logging on!
    • Hotels that offer free wifi and then encourage you to upgrade are usually targeting those business users that will upgrade because they can claim it back on their expenses. The free usage should be enough for a guest that wants to access it in the short-term.
    • Don’t bother trying to connect to “Free Public Wi-Fi” (or “hpsetup” or “linksys”). It’s never a working Wi-Fi hot spot. It’s actually a viral “feature” of Windows XP running amok.
    • Don’t forget that once you have finished accessing wifi, then turning off your device’s wifi connector will save battery power, which is will be very important to travellers in particular.

    Is your relationship in the doldrums? It may need a holiday.

    Friday, March 20th, 2015

    In 2014 people in the UK were asked in a survey published by Relate to identify the top three challenges to their family relationships. Around three-fifths reported money worries as the main factor that placed the most strain on their relationship. This was followed by working long hours, maintaining a work-life balance, infidelity and not understanding each other.

    Getting away somewhere together is exciting and feels adventurous and if the place is new to both of you, the experience is one that you will share with absolute equality. It demonstrates and reinforces the correct priorities in life and can reignite the little sparks that fuelled your relationship in the first place.

    Here’s what a few Relationship Experts have to say on holidaying with your partner:

    • Relationship consultant Paula Hall, author of ‘Improving Your Relationship for Dummies’, thinks a couple’s getaway could be the key to improving things. Are you arguing non-stop? That’s the most obvious signal of a relationship on the rocks. But not even caring to have an argument can be worse. Paula says: “Although conflict can be very damaging to a relationship, indifference is even worse. If you’re finding that you just can’t be bothered to raise issues anymore or fight for the things that matter to you, then it’s definitely time to look at your relationship.”
    • Sharon Bexley, of says, “We dream about, plan and save for them all year – with so much expectation riding on our holidays, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised if they don’t live up to our hopes. Many couples feel more distant, rather than closer, when they’re away from the daily grind?”
    • Relate Counsellor Christine Northam; “Along with Christmas, holidays can be among the most testing times for a couple. Being away from home and your normal routine magnifies any cracks in a relationship that isn’t all it should be.”
    • Counsellor and psychosexual therapist Julia Cole suggests in her book, ‘Make Love Work For You’; “Assuming that your partner will want what you want is the quickest way to a major holiday falling-out (and may reflect a tendency to assume things about them in other areas of the relationship.) Whatever it is that you particularly want to do, try to alternate days of activity with days of rest. This will help you let go of the idea of schedules and living to a timetable that happens at home.”

    So if you want your break away to be the one that strengthens your relationship and doesn’t damage it, how can you do it?

    Looking for the ideal trip is all part of the fun – so keep an open mind as to where you want to go. The more you do together in the planning, the more together you’ll feel when away and less strain is paced on just one of you. Everything planned together is less to argue about if it doesn’t go to plan!

    At Airparks we are constantly trying to make your journey to the airport as smooth and as stress free as possible, we know that this can be one of the things that really gets the temper near the surface for anyone, but particularly for a couple under strain! So we provide simple pleasures such as valet car parking, quiet airport lounges a car cleaning service, Return Greet service and free wifi in the car parks and on the buses. We feel that these small personal touches can really help to make your decision as a couple to take time-out from life, and the travelling to your holiday just that much more enjoyable.

    Don’t put yourself under financial strain to achieve your time away – that’ll just leave some problems hibernating for when you return. Instead, choose something that you can afford and instead add a few affordable treats and luxuries as you go.

    Choose a stress-free destination that offers a range of activities that can be both relaxing and stimulating. Rushing around sightseeing all the time is tiring, but equally, sitting around doing nothing can be boring and unfulfilling.

    Pack together – think about new or special things to pack to make the holiday extra special. Think sexy lingerie or scented oils.

    Talk and enthuse each other before you go! What do you want to get out of the holiday?

    If things at home have been stressful and busy and it has been disturbing your sleep pattern, it’s a good idea to let yourself have time to wind down before you leave. That way, you’ll enjoy from the moment you arrive.

    Spend some time on holiday just talking. You can often make good decisions about your future and build closer ties when you have time just to be together and chat about your feelings. It’ll mean you have some unity in your personal goals when you get home.

    Last but not least – don’t forget your camera! You’ll want to capture some of those special shared moments to help make the memories last a lifetime.

    ‘APPy Travels

    Monday, March 9th, 2015

    Mobiles are shifting the way we approach all the facets of our lives, especially the way we research, book and manage our travels and adventures. Whether it’s personal advice from a friend on Facebook, instructions from a travel guide, or some incredibly helpful assistance from a blog piece like this (!), your mobile can be all the guidance you need. With that in mind, here’s our list of top 10 travel apps to help your way – and don’t forget that you can use them all across our free wifi in AirParks car parks and on our buses!

    1. aCar

    aCar is an essential tool to have, before you start your holiday. This straightforward and easy-to-use app helps you manage all things to do with your car, making sure nothing stops you getting to the airport! Just enter information about your vehicle’s make and model and it will make some really clever calculations like the cost of running your car per day and per mile. It’ll also tell you how far you are driving each day, predict when your next fill-up should be, calculate your fuel efficiency and chart it all for you. The app will also remind you when your next MOT or service is due so that your journey is a hassle free as possible and there’s absolutely no chance that you’ll miss that flight!

    2. Yplan

    Friends and family can make their best recommendations, but what about having your very own team of Entertainment Specialists? Take away the worry about planning where to go. Don’t wander the streets looking for the place with the brightest lights and loudest music. Yplan has your back. It will lead you to the best local events from live comedy nights to dinner deals that can all be paid for in a couple of clicks. Check out this Vimeo video for more info: YPlan, Tonight’s Going Out App (London)

    3. Holiday Countdown App

    How many friends do you know that have use social media to count the ‘sleeps’ before they head off on their holiday? The excitement has set in and as much as you try otherwise, it’s all that’s on your mind. The Holiday Countdown App is all you need to tell you and your social media followers just how long you have until the eagerly awaited day arrives. Simply enter your destination and the date you travel, add your own tantalising background image and then let the countdown begin!

    4. CityMapper

    If you want to travel around your foreign destination on anything but foot, then the challenge is working out what to use, where to find it and what time it runs! CityMapper is the answer! Available in 14 cities across the world – from Tokyo to Budapest, London to Washington DC – this navigation app plans a route for you. It’ll provide you with journey times, distances, prices – all with the click of a button! It even caters for future travel with catapult or teleport options to see how your journey could look in the future! Beam us up!

    5. Cost Split

    Cost Split is an app designed to save those terribly embarrassing moments when you are travelling with a group of friends. This helps you share costs within a group, with everyone able to add to the expenses from their own devices thanks to the cloud sync. You can pre-set a budget and all the names of your travelling companions so that at the end of the trip a report can define who should pay what to whom; making buying rounds at the bar so much simpler!

    6. Accuweather

    Discussing the weather is a typically British conversation starter, but this free, award winning weather app could take your ice breaking to the next level. With minute-by-minute hyper-localised precipitation forecast, accuweather is all about personalisation. You can even hide the less noteworthy conditions (who wants to hear about humidity?!) with the swipe of a finger, and create 5 day plans in advance, making sure you have those flip-flops packed if you need them.

    7. What3Words

    It seems like family and friends are never in one place at the same time these days. Fear not… What3Words allows you to pinpoint your friends and family to their specific location using a GPS map has the mapped out the entire world to 57 trillion squares, each 3m by 3m with their own code names!! Wow. Send location info to other users of the app so they can find exactly where you are (if you want them to!). Like the sound of that? Watch this video for more details!

    8.  Travel Bingo

    If the phrase ‘Are we nearly there yet’ is wearing a little thin and ‘I Spy’ has turned into a situation more like educating the children on their spelling techniques, then Bingo! The Travel Bingo app is great fun for the family. Look for road signs, vehicles, animals and road marker to score points. The first to spot all of them wins the game and the app sounds an alert for Bingo!

    9. WhatGas Petrol Prices

    Now we know that you have probably stretched yourself to get the best out of your holiday. So here’s one small way to save some pennies if you can. This app will help you to locate the closest and cheapest petrol station, giving you the option find a cheaper alternative down the road and save money when you fill up. It features the UK, Ireland, Germany, Portugal, Czech Republic and Hungary with more than 50,000 petrol stations including Shell, BP, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and ASDA. Click here to download the app.

    10. Trip Journal

    Last but certainly not least is the #1 Google Awarded Travel App; Trip Journal. Taking the rather retro idea of a travel diary, Trip Journal allows you to document your adventures and share them with your friends and family in an unfolding journal. Impress everybody with well designed updates, travelling routes, full screen photos, videos, comments and blog entries; all shareable though social networks and content sharing portals, including Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube and Twitter.

    … So that’s our ten steps to an ‘appy trip but hey, we’re not the Oracle on all this! We’d love to hear about your favourite travel apps so leave a comment, tweet us or post your ‘must haves’ to Facebook.

    Cheap airport parking for my Paris trip made me go ooh la la

    Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

    I’m off to Paris soon and I can’t wait. I’ve managed to book a deal for one week which would have cost me more if I’d booked for just a few days. And although I’m probably going to spend more money now, at least it’ll be on things that I actually want to buy. I’ve heard that there’s so many great places to visit, so I’m sure I won’t be stuck with things to do in my extra few days there.
    I’ve been to Paris before on a school trip a fairly long time ago, but never got to venture into Paris centre. In fact, we stayed at a lousy hotel and ended up venturing to McDonalds as the food was pretty lousy at the hotel too. Very cultured!

    Probably me being a little tacky, but I really do want to visit the Champs Elysées and the Eiffel Tower (rather than a French McDonalds where I struggled to order a Big Mac). I’m also very interested in visiting the Louvre museum and art gallery. And whatever people may say about the Mona Lisa and it being pretty uninteresting, I still want to be able to say, ‘I’ve seen it’. The one thing that does worry me though is money. I’ve heard all the stories about Paris being more expensive than London, especially the food and drink. And what with the euro nearly matching the pound at present, I well believe it. The thing is, I really don’t want to rein back on my spending – I’ve wanted to go to Paris for a while and I want to see places and do the things I want to do. So, what did I do to save money in other ways?

    Well, I did manage to save myself a huge amount of cash on those additional extras that are needed for an overseas trip – airport parking and travel insurance. With a current promotion being run by Airparks on parking for eight or 15 days (to suit those on one or two weeks’ holidays), it meant that I could get parking from just £29.92 for my trip. A bargain if you ask me! Plus, if I’d gone for a long weekend like I’d originally planned to, it probably would have cost me about the same. So, not only did I get a bargain on my city break, but I also saved a considerable amount on my airport parking too.

    So, what about that all important travel insurance? Well, from my own personal view you’d be a bit of a fool if you didn’t buy it, especially with the recent volcanic eruption catastrophe. I booked my comprehensive cover with Holiday Extras, the best travel insurance provider at the Globe Travel Awards 2010. It cost me under £9 for the week and that way I know I’m fully covered because it includes cancellation cover, medical cover and baggage cover. That means more money for me to spend on the things I actually want to spend it on – like clothes, food and sightseeing!

    If you’ve got a trip coming up this summer, the holiday parking packages for eight and 15 days are a real good way to keep the cost down – especially if you’ve got lots of things you want to see and do at your chosen destination. Check out Airparks today.

    Published by Ross Barnard on June 22, 2010

    used under creative commons licence from Neil_Barman

    Glastonbury – I can’t wait to see you!

    Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

    It’s 20 days until Glastonbury and yes, I’m counting down the days (with the help of a Mac widget). I’ve got my tent, my sleeping bag, a camping stove. And yes – I’ve definitely got my wellies! All I need now is a hiking bag and a crate of beer or three. It may not be the ideal getaway for some (especially with Glastonbury’s reputation for a rather wet climate). But it really is an experience you wouldn’t get on an overseas trip – and that includes doing your business in a portable loo!

    So, what am I looking forward to the most? Well, it would probably be easier to put a small list together of what I’m not looking forward to. And that list includes not having a proper wash for five days, sleeping in a tent for five nights, my hair being a complete mess (yes, my hair is important). But, you know what, those are pretty much the only things I’m really not keen on when going to a festival. The good definitely outweighs the bad.

    To me, the best thing about Glastonbury is the atmosphere. It’s like a completely different world – a community plonked in the middle of a field. Making new friends with like-minded people, spending time with the people you care about and embracing that feeling of total freedom. From the Green Fields, Stone Circle and the Left Fields – there’s so much more to Glastonbury than the music. It’s a festival to celebrate what the world could be like – a complete alternative lifestyle. But, of course, the music is a fantastic addition to that magnificent atmosphere. I can’t imagine my life without it.

    The line-up this year is huge and not surprisingly, I’m spoilt for choice! From Vampire Weekend, Muse, Editors, The Courteeners – the list is pretty much endless. And of course, I’ll definitely be sneaking down to shake a mean hoof at the dance tents. With the addition of new tents and areas each year, the place just seems to grow and grow. But as I said, it really isn’t just all about the music – and once you’ve been, you’ll understand why I say that.

    You could say that Glastonbury is similar to jetting off to the other side of the world. It’s like going travelling and experiencing another culture, where no one frets and capitalism seems a distant way of life. I’ve not met anyone who’s been to Glastonbury and hasn’t wanted to go back again and again. I guess the only thing that lets it down is the weather – but I suppose Glastonbury wouldn’t be Glastonbury without mud-baths and wellies. So, Glasto 2010 here I come. And I really cannot wait!

    Published by Ross Barnard on June 2, 2010

    used under creative commons licence from al_green

    Venice – the floating city

    Monday, May 17th, 2010

    I wanted to write about my favourite destination in Italy. And to tell you the truth, I was torn. Italy is my favourite place in Europe and there’s so many interesting things to see and do. The quandary was between Florence and Venice – eventually the floating city won. But why? I guess I’m a bit of a romantic and, to me, Venice is just the place for it. Other than that, its beauty, charm and culture really won me over.

    Famous for fine food, a fascinating history and erratic driving behaviour – Italy is a truly unique place. The thing that struck me in Venice, as obvious as it sounds, was the lack of cars. Maybe ‘the lack of’ is an understatement – there’s none! And whatever you may think about me being in a beautiful, cultured city and singling out no cars, if you’ve been there before you’ll understand why I said it. It’s incredibly peaceful wherever you go (apart from the hustle and bustle of the locals). Something you rarely get anywhere else in Europe. That means when you’re in Venice you can either walk among the beautiful and picturesque streets or take a water taxi. Of course, if you’re energetic enough you can walk across Venice’s 455 bridges.

    And no, I haven’t forgotten the gondolas. I was saving that bit – it’s my favourite! To be fair, it’s probably the reason why I decided to write about Venice – and what an amazing experience it is too. Peace, tranquility, paired with beautiful views. Yes, it is expensive, but I can whole-heartedly say it was definitely worth the £150 I paid to go on one. Would I do it again? Yes.

    Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), another fantastic sight-seeing favourite. If you don’t visit St Mark’s Square when you go to Venice, it’s like going to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower. With plush bars and restaurants along with cafes and outside seating, it’s an idyllic way to wile away an afternoon in the Venetian sun.

    What else is there to do? I could go on! But here’s another memorable moment of mine from Venice. Why not take a walk over the Rialto bridge (or up, it’s quite steep!) You’ll find many gift shops on it, along with pleasant views across the city. If you’re snap-happy make sure you get some shots of the bridge, it’s rather spectacular and captures the essence of this idyllic and unique city.

    So, if you’re thinking of taking a trip to Venice, take it from me – you won’t be disappointed. If you’re already planning your travel arrangements, don’t forget Airparks’ low-cost airport parking.

    Published by Ross Barnard on May 17, 2010

    Rialto bridge, Venice. Used under creative commons licence from Liamnudds