Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

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

No eruptions at Airparks

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Well, it’s a week today that the volcano crisis hit Europe; and hard. For some there is still no end in sight, with continued disruption and chaos to travellers and businesses. And for travel companies, the knock-on effect is huge. Not to mention some holidaymakers who can’t get back until May at the earliest.

As you can imagine it has been a very busy time at Airparks HQ, but at our car parks it has been eerily quiet. Although there’s been an excess of at least 400 cars at each site, there definitely hasn’t been an excess of people!

So, in short, what has Airparks been doing to make things as hassle-free for our customers? Well, apart from being unable to bring back our stranded customers (we would if we could), we’ve tried to do everything possible from our end to make sure everything runs smoothly. From making sure our customers don’t suffer financially with unfair charges, to constantly giving up-to-date information on our website. Not to mention taking up to 8400 calls in just one day and answering near-on 1000+ customer emails per day. Yes, we’ve been pretty busy! But it’s never too much for us at Airparks.

Mr Hopkinson from Wolverhampton, who had to cancel his booking at Airparks Birmingham after a cancelled flight, said: “Thank you for your trouble. I couldn’t believe how quickly it was dealt with.”

Down at Airparks HQ, we’ve also been making sure that our special volcano webpage is giving customers the most useful information if they’ve been stranded or couldn’t make their trip. To cancelling bookings to cancellation policies, flight information, car park information, video updates from our CEO and expert advice from travel experts for stranded customers – It’s all been on there and by the looks of some comments we’ve received, much appreciated too. We’ve even been tweeting updates on Twitter!

But primarily, we’ve made sure that our customers don’t suffer unfairly during this uncontrollable situation and therefore we aren’t charging customers to amend their bookings or transfer them to another date. We’re also not charging customers for the extra days’ parking incurred because of being stranded abroad.

Penny Frankel from Ascot, one of our customers who booked parking through our preferred partner Holiday Extras, said: “Exhausted, but I just want to feed back that I was stunned to find you weren’t charging anyone stranded extra parking costs from Airparks.

“There is a god afterall and I think it’s named Holiday Extras.”

Now Europe’s airspace has re-opened, there’s been a steady influx of customers at some of our car parks, to a large stream of customers at others. And that’s why we’ve drafted in extra staff to make sure it all runs like clockwork.
Of course, if you’re still being affected and you still need to speak to us, drop us an email at volcano@airparks.co.uk or give us a call on 0800 747 777.

Published by Ross Barnard on April 22, 2010

used under creaive commons licence from Hello, I am Bruce

Will you be flashing your white bits this summer?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

I recently came across an article on the Travel Weekly website. Well actually, it rather stood out to my selective eyesight when I saw the title, ‘Hottest ever’ summer could hit trade’. I think everyone across the UK is wishing the summer here. And I know full well that I am. There’s only so much snow I can take in one year – and I know what people say when it feels like this winter has gone on forever!

According to Positive Weather Solutions (PWS), this summer is going to break records. And could well be the hottest summer since 1976 – hooray! But are the predictions just another set of false hope or a string of inaccurate information? I don’t know about you, but the recent lift in temperature has left me feeling a lot more positive, upholding that feeling that summer’s finally on its way. With the clocks going forward and the lighter evenings, it can only get better.

For the travel industry, is this ‘news’ really a threat to sales? Whether you’re optimistic about this year’s British summer, or you’re a pessimist (you’re usually right to be), would it really stop you from taking your annual trip abroad? Last year, the Met Office wrongly predicted a ‘barbecue summer,’ leaving many sun-worshippers feeling particularly anguished. Do you take a holiday to escape the British weather, or do you take a trip to escape the woes of British culture? For me, it’s both. I need to get my dose of sunshine, and a taste of another culture. The daily grind gets a little bit too much and it gets to the point where I need to get away. So, whether it’s going to be a sweltering summer, or an absolute washout, there’s no doubt that I’ll be jetting-off from the UK this year.

Looking at it from a different angle, summer in the UK is obviously the time when we have some of the best weather. We have long autumn and winter months, and our climate doesn’t start to improve until springtime. So, why do most choose to go abroad when our climate is at its warmest? I’m sure many of you, like me, enjoy having a good moan about how cold or how wet it is during winter – so why not escape to a sunnier retreat when we’re feeling at our lowest about the British weather?

Some, that are lucky enough to get away multiple times during the year, may like to spread out their trips. But what about the rest of us who take our only getaway, during the only ‘hot’ period of the year? You could say it’s a ritual, or the ‘common thing’ to do. And I guess, if you tend to take a trip in Europe, the weather only improves more so during the summer months there too. In this case, Europe is the cheaper option, especially if you have a family and you’re tied down to the six weeks’ school summer holidays. You’ll also find that many resorts in Europe close down, particularly the tourist areas which are seasonal. That means you won’t get the atmosphere you’d usually get in the summertime if you go during the winter months. In fact, you may feel slightly deserted!
The Canary Islands, however, are renowned for their all-year-round sun and being particularly close to Africa. So, for a cheaper winter sun getaway, it’s an ideal destination to grab some rays, without having to fork-out on expensive long-haul trips to places like the Dominican Republic or Mexico.

So, would you change the habit of a lifetime and make your escape during the winter? I don’t know about you, but it makes sense to me to take full advantage of the absence of snow and sub-zero temperatures in the UK – even if it’s not the ‘hottest ever summer’.

Published by Ross Barnard on March 30, 2010

summer sunset, used under creative commons licence from laserguided

Do you need to be kneed? The joys of travelling alone

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

I read an article this week about singles-specialist tour operator Just You launching a new all-inclusive programme. And it made me think about what would it be like to travel alone. I guess if you’re single, you don’t have a lot of other options, and for some it’s the only option.
It made me think about the positives of being single and having the freedom to do the things you want to do, and when you want to do them. Going away with a partner can often leave you feeling that you’d rather come home without them!

Valentine’s Day has just been and gone – a cringeworthy time whether you’re single or taken. If you’re like me and didn’t even get a card from your significant other, it makes for a day of pure heartbreak whether you’re coupled-up or unattached!
For some, being single on Valentine’s is the economic option – especially when the BBC’s research suggested that the average spend in 2008 was around £71.25. 
So, whether you need a day to show how much you love your partner, or you think it’s just another way to make money, is single life the way forward?

Well, let’s look at it from a ‘single’ point of view and the positives of going it alone. You can benefit from freedom; there’s more time to see your friends; it’s cheaper; you can please yourself; there’s no being kneed in the back in the middle of the night, you get the double bed to yourself; you don’t have to care what you look like when you wake up in the morning – the list is endless! … oh, and you don’t have to buy a Valentine’s card or pressie.

So, we’ve already discussed the benefits of being single, but what would it be like to travel singly? There are many who do, going on all different types of trip, from cruises and adventure holidays to travelling the globe. Old or young, for weeks or months – there’s a huge amount of solo travellers out there. 

I don’t know about you, but coordinating myself isn’t one of my strong points. Maybe I should re-phrase that, perhaps reading things properly isn’t one of my strongest points – as mentioned in one of my previous blogs. I managed for six months to misjudge the date of my flight home, when it was written on paper in front of me the whole time. Luckily, I had understanding friends with me who made me feel better about my stupidity and woe. I guess from past experience that in my case, travelling alone wouldn’t go too well…

Putting coordination aside, I can imagine that there’s just so many new feelings and experiences that you could get from travelling on your own. Having so much time to think and taking everything at your own pace – it does sound very appealing. My friend Rach, who went travelling to Southeast Asia last year, split from the friend she went out with and decided to make her own tracks halfway through. Not only did she get to take her own route, but she also met a lot of new people and made some great friends through doing it. If she’d gone with a partner, she may not have experienced that. In short, she had an amazing time and it’s given her the taste to want to do more.

I guess the thing that would get to me the most about travelling solo would probably be going back alone to your room at night, and also going out and eating meals on your own. I’m sure there’s plenty of people in the UK who do this all the time, but in a foreign country, I feel I would struggle. I would admire anyone for arranging a trip of a lifetime and going it alone, because I for one know I couldn’t.

Published by Ross Barnard on February 17, 2010

Walking alone - used under creative commons licence from zaqi

Self-catering or all-inclusive?

Friday, January 15th, 2010

There are many things to think about when choosing a holiday, especially if you have a family and the kids like their endless ice creams and drinks.
Paying up front for a holiday can be scary and searching for the best deal and the most ideal place to suit everyone’s needs can be a hassle. Generally we would all rather get the cheapest price we can and just book it. The thing is at that point, we don’t think about those extra costs we may incur when we get there.

Self-catering holidays are great if you enjoy the freedom of eating somewhere different every night and don’t like being tied to set meal times. It’s nice to go on holiday and experience different things in different surroundings – exactly the reason why we go away. The problem starts when you have three or four extra mouths to feed, going away for a week or two can suddenly then become very expensive. When you’re away, you may not want to think about how much money you’re spending.

Self-catering can be an excellent option if you’re a couple. The holiday can feel more romantic if you are eating out somewhere different every night. Eating out back at home is usually an occasional treat, so it’s good when you’re away to treat yourself by not eating at the same hotel restaurant every night.

All-inclusive holidays often appear very expensive at first, especially if you have a family or four or five. Picture the scene, you walk into the travel agent, tell them where you would like to go and tell them you want to go all-inclusive. A very hefty quote appears and you ask the agent, can we not get anything any cheaper? The only other option is self-catering, or half board where the drinks and ice creams aren’t included.

Used under Creative Commons Licence from 松林L

Hotel restaurant buffet

So what’s good about all-inclusive? Well, all your drinks, meals, and ice creams at the hotel are included in that lump-sum you pay at the beginning. The kids can enjoy lots of drinks and ice creams, and your wallet doesn’t leave your pocket (hopefully) all the time your at the hotel. The original quote you got seemed large, but it probably would have cost you more if you had to pay for all of those things separately.
All-inclusive can also be a great option if you’re going away with friends, especially if you like your alcohol and don’t want to worry about not being able to afford to eat and drink. When you go away with friends, you generally just want to sit by the pool and relax in the day and party by night – especially with the inclusive alcohol. Many teens tend to go for the cheapest deal they can get and that usually means going self-catering. This means that often they end up taking lots of spending money and the holiday suddenly becomes a lot more expensive than was first planned.

So what really is the best option, and how do you know if you’re making the right choice? It is clear to see that both board options have their pros and cons.
It depends on whether you’re a family, a group of friends, or a couple – there is always that risk when making that booking. The key is to do your research, think practically and don’t get put off by the first price you see.

Published by Ross Barnard on January 15, 2010

Woah, we’re going to Ibiza!

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Ibiza, it’s long been known as ‘the party island’ and has a great reputation as a fun place for the young, or the epicentre of the world for serious clubbers!
There are the lively parts of Ibiza, famously San Antonio, Playa d’en Bossa, or Ibiza town which are the hubs of world-famous clubs and bars.
You can easily get caught up in the world of a clubbing holiday, but on my first time to Ibiza we hired a car and travelled the island in a day. It’s a very attractive island and there are lots of quiet and scenic places like Portinatx and Santa Eulalia to visit – showing there is more to the island than just clubs.

Ultimately though, anyone young knows exactly why they want to go there. Yes, it’s a fun and exciting place – but it can also be a very expensive place too (especially if you and your friends miss your flight home, like me!)
It will generally cost you around 40 euros (roughly £35-£40) to get into one of the big clubs at the beginning of the opening parties season. Of course, it does get more expensive when it hits peak season.
You think that’s expensive though, but then you get an ever bigger shock in the clubs – you walk up to the bar, order a vodka lemonade (to your own preference) and the bar tender says, ‘that’s 17 euros.’ What?!
Expensive holiday? Yes, it is, especially if you like a drink! You may decide to not drink when you get there and just have water, but then you get a nasty surprise when the average 500ml bottle of water costs you about 9 euros In a club!

So firstly, you’re going to Ibiza for a reason, but money’s an issue and there are clubs you want to go to and places you want to see. You couldn’t go for a clubbing holiday and not go to one of the big ones – Privilege, Pacha, Eden, Amnesia, Space, Es Paradis – but you want to make sure you get the best pick for what you’re looking for.
Of course, there may be someone you really want to see like Tiesto (amazing), or Calvin Harris – when you should be on your flight… but besides that, if you’re on a budget you’ll want to go to the best two or three.

Personally, my favourite club is Amnesia, then a close second Privilege. I went to Cream @ Amnesia on the Thursday night which was fantastic, the atmosphere was great and the interior of the club is wicked! (especially when its liquid nitrogen cannon occasionally shoots out supercooled gas into the crowd!)
When I went to Privilege, I went on a Monday night and saw Tiesto – the atmosphere here is also amazing and it’s big enough to be able to have your own space (unless you want to be right at the front of course!)
If you like your trance music then these clubs are definitely for you. If you like your house music then you should definitely check out Judgement Sundays @ Eden, Pure Pacha, or head to Space.

Ibiza Rocks in San Antonio is a great place to go if you like a good gig, and they manage to pull-in a lot of top acts every week. It’s also a really nice small-ish and intimate venue. Imagine seeing your favourite artist near the golden sands of the beach – lovely!

Another great place to visit Is Bora-Bora beach in Playa d’en Bossa. It’s a great place if you love a beer and a boogie In the daytime. The music is pumping, the atmosphere is very chilled – and they do a good pizza! If you fancy popping along to a club, Space Is conveniently open 18 hours a day!

You may, like me, want to do some old-fashioned sight-seeing in the daytime, and I would definitely recommend going to old Ibiza town. There is an interesting Fort to visit amongst the small, pretty streets. You can go and chill at one of the many bars or restaurants on the picturesque harbour, or do a spot of shopping.

Finally, before we mention money – I want to recommend one special thing that is a must see in Ibiza! Ever thought a bird could cycle, push a pram, play basketball, or skateboard? In Ibiza they can, and very talented too I must say. You better just hope your hotel pays to have this amazing performance by your pool side! (Mine was at 3pm on a thursday – yes I stole the poster from my accommodation.)

So, money! If you’re not already skint by the thought of going to Ibiza, a few good tips about making the most of your time there, your money, and not missing out are here.

Option one, like me and my friends, we decided to go to the local supermarket everyday, stock up on energy drink, vodka and cheap beer. We would generally stay at the hotel until about 11pm, have a few drinks (few being an understatement), and then venture down to our ‘local,’ BN3.
From here we were able to get a free bus to all of the main club nights and also buy our tickets there too. Excellent stuff – no expensive taxi rides to the club!

Option two, you can, if you’re staying in San Antonio or Playa den Bossa, venture down to the many bars located in the centre of each town. Here you’ll get hassled into going in every bar down the street which is annoying, but you can play them off against each other! (I want this, this, this, and two of these for 10 euros please! Sorted!)

Option three, don’t go out and don’t drink. (Nah, that’s boring!) But seriously, you can opt for an all-Inclusive package for your holiday when you book and this means all your drinks and food at the hotel are included. Then, all you would need spending money for is everything outside the hotel (including missed flights).

Good guide? The best thing to do is see the things and people you really want to see, go to the clubs that appeal to you – then think carefully about how best to spend the rest of your money. And of course, don’t miss your flight like I did.

Published by Ross Barnard on January 14, 2010

Used under Creative Commons Licence from ST33VO

San Antonio, Ibiza