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2 years ago

Family HolidaysHolidays in Ireland

 Is Kelly’s The Best Family Hotel in Ireland?

Kelly's Resort Hotel, Wexford

Perched on five miles of sandy beach, with award winning cuisine and a host of activities for children, is Kelly’s the best family hotel in Ireland?

 

For years I have heard friends boast of Kelly’s fine food and fantastic kids facilities. The Irish Independent’s reader awards named it as their favourite place to stay for 2018 and it was voted the most family friendly hotel in Ireland in last years Gold Medal Awards. These are on top of a plethora of other awards that Kelly’s has received for as long as I care to remember! I was interested to see what all the fuss was about, so when Wexford Tourism invited us to stay I jumped at the chance.

Waiting in line to check-in was bizarre. I overheard two separate couples rebook for the following year. There was no question of cost, they were confirming their booking for the same time, a year later. I asked the receptionist if this was normal and she said she has seen four generations of families staying at Kelly’s since she started working there – a startling statistic. I recalled that I have ever holidayed in a place that my parents stayed….

I couldn’t help but notice that throughout the hotel there were multi generational families holidaying together. Kelly’s is a bit on an anomaly – it manages to cater superbly for children but also for adults, even grandparents! It is not only the clientele that come back year after year. It was heartwarming to see so many long-serving members of staff, who recognised guests from previous visits, a rarity in the hospitality sector these days.

kelly's the best family hotel in ireland

 
There is entertainment around the clock. It starts after breakfast when the kids club opens at 930am. Kelly’s have a ‘Pirates Club’ for kids aged 4 and over.  There are arts and crafts, drama and dress up, musical games, painting, pool games and much more taking place throughout the day. The ‘Starfish Club’ caters for younger children from 8.30 am – 5.00pm, however a fee of €3.00 per child per hour applies. Parents are free to spend a day at the beach, play a round of golf at the nearby championship course, or relax in the multi award-winning spa. A word of warning, prebook your spa treatments, the spa looked seriously impressive! As it was our first time to visit,  I didn’t realise how popular it was, it was booked out for our entire stay.

kelly's the best family hotel in ireland

 
Lunch is served from 12.30pm. Families dine together and enjoy an array of delicious hot and cold options from the buffet. I am not normally a buffet fan, but we ate here on our last day and it was excellent. The selection of salads was superb, not to mention desserts! They even had a selection of homemade ice cream with cones for the kids. If you don’t fancy buffet dining, you can also choose to opt for waiter service in Beaches, the à la carte restaurant, for breakfast or lunch.

kelly's the best family hotel in ireland

 
Dinner is a whole different ballgame. After an afternoon full of activities, children are encouraged to dine at the ‘kids buffet’ at 5.30pm. Personally, I found this a tad early! We happened to be out all day so this wasn’t an option for us anyway, but the idea is that kids dine separately with their new found friends. Dinner is followed by a kids disco and then back to the kids club for a movie. There is complimentary child-minding for all children from 7pm – 9pm so parents can enjoy a ‘date night’.

 

 

I spoke to a few families while I was there and they loved this arrangement. In fact this was one of the main reasons they return to Kelly’s year after year. They get to enjoy fine dining in Beaches alone, while the kids watch a movie. Kelly’s also have a remote intercom system so when you put the kids to bed, you can leave the phone off the hook and dial in to make sure there is no one awake. You can also hire staff babysitters ( €10 per hour), if you have young children or are not comfortable with this arrangement. I doubt this would be used much in international hotel chains, but Kelly’s has been a family run hotel for over 100 years.

Originally opened as a tea rooms in 1895, Kelly’s has been passed from generation to generation and has always remained a family run hotel. Kelly’s is now run by the fourth generation Bill Kelly and his wife Isabelle. Isabelle happens to be the daughter of leading French wine-makers from Chateauneuf-du-Pape – so no wonder the wine list is so good!

Laura Kelly, the fifth generation Kelly has also taken the helm beside her father. Like her father and grandfather, she studied in the famous Hotel Management school of Switzerland and has since worked in top class family resorts around the world, including Club Med. The reason I mention this is because Kelly’s has a Mediterranean resort feel to it. It is not like a typical Irish hotel. Most people book the full board package, which includes all meals, even afternoon tea! Kelly’s reminded me of an all-inclusive family resort in Spain, I don’t think I have seen anything like it anywhere else in Ireland.

kelly's the best family hotel in ireland

 
We ate in Beaches twice, albeit with the kids! For a large hotel restaurant, Kelly’s not only manage to serve delicious food but the atmosphere felt more like a local restaurant than a large hotel dining room. It should be noted that young children are not allowed to dine in Beaches. The menu actually states ‘adults only’ but when I had a mild panic attack, I was told it was not enforced for older kids.

Looking around the restaurant I don’t think there was anyone under six. If you want to dine with young children you can reserve a table in the bar area and enjoy the Beaches menu there.  I thought this a little autocratic initially, but it works!

kelly's the best family hotel in ireland

 
The food in Kelly’s is superb. Whether you dine at the buffet or in Beaches, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you are guaranteed delicious meals and super service. In Beaches I enjoyed a tasty goats cheese salad starter and Cormac, the crab salad. There was no separate kids menu but there were ample dishes for kids to enjoy.

However if you have fussy eaters, they are only too happy to provide children’s food off menu. The fillet of beef was perfectly cooked, as was the scallops and black pudding. The desserts were delicious too. After one day in Kelly’s I understood why people were so obsessed with the food – it really is that good! Mr Kelly played the perfect host, checking in with all guests asking about their day and if everything is ok with their meal.

kelly's the best family hotel in ireland

 
There are also lots of things that families can enjoy together. There are two large swimming pools with no restrictions on swim times, and of course the beach is on your doorstep. With miles of sandy beach and rock pools for kids to explore, a day at the beach is inevitable.

Watersports enthusiasts will love the windsurfing, kayaking and sailing lessons provided by the Rosslare Watersports centre during the Summer months. There are also indoor and outdoor tennis courts, boules and a great mini golf course, which we played on a few occasions.  As well as the kids club there is also a large pirate ship playground and a games room for kids to enjoy.

kelly's the best family hotel in ireland

Kelly’s is unique. It is a family-run resort hotel, where parents dress up for dinner while their kids play elsewhere. Kelly’s offers escapism. Kelly’s is located in County Wexford, in Ireland’s sunny South East, which was given the name because Wexford has lower average annual rainfall than any other county in Ireland. Having lunch on the sunny rooftop balcony on our last day we almost forgot where we were. It was like the Mediterranean. With fine beaches on your doorstep, non stop entertainment for kids, mouthwatering food and a wine list to die for, it is not surprising that many believe Kelly’s is the best family hotel in Ireland. Go see for yourself!

 

For more details visit Kellys.ie  and check out my blog on things to do in Wexford with kids.

 

 
Sarah

 

The Travel Expert
DESTINATIONSRest of the World

Val du Charron Wine Estate – The Best Place to Stay in South Africa’s Winelands

val du charron

After a busy few days in Cape Town, there is nothing like the countryside to help you unwind. We stayed in Val du Charron wine estate, just over an hour from Cape Town and it was just perfect.

 

Stellenbosch and Franschoek are most widely known towns for wine tasting so when my travel agent suggested I try Val Du Charron in Wellington, I was a little skeptical. I was assured that I would love it, a brave claim, especially with kids……


We arrived at lunch time and immediately spotted visitors enjoying wine and food on the terrace. I didn’t even want to check-in, the room could wait. We decided to join them and went straight for lunch. The food and service was excellent and the views, spectacular! Our server recommended we start with their fresh Pino Grigio before moving on to the Cabernet Sauvignon. Who was I to argue with the expert? The wine and food was delicious, so much so that we stayed there for hours. The staff must have thought it strange that we didn’t want to see our rooms, but we were loving our new home.

val du charron

When we did finally get to our rooms, it was just for a quick change and back out again to explore the estate. The kids had a dip in the pool while we strolled around the vineyard. Originally a fruit farm from 1699, this remarkable estate changed hands in 2006 and has been welcoming tourists ever since. The owners are conscious to keep the property in touch with its historic integrity and produce and bottle the wine on site. Complete with a choice of two restaurants and a spa, you really don’t have to leave the estate. We decided to stay put for the day and ate in the main restaurant that night too.

val du charron

The following day we explored the neighbouring towns. I was really amazed at how big Stellenbosch had become. Now a university town complete with Mr Price and fast food outlets, it was a far cry from the pretty country town I had visited years before. Franschoek, on the other hand is very pretty. Although a tad ‘Disneyesque’, it is the picture postcard town, with art galleries, curio shops and cafés. Not sure where you’d pick up a pint of milk and a sliced pan though 🙂

We enjoyed a stroll around the town, purchased some art (as you do!) from the market and tried some chocolate and wine in one of the local shops! Franschoek has a wine tram, which looked like a great idea. You can hop on, hop off all day, tasting wine in different wine estates and not have to worry about driving. With two kids in tow, unfortunately it wasn’t for us…

val du charron

We visited Takora Wine Estate, midway between Stellenbosh and Franschoek. It is located on a hill top with panoramic views over the vineyard and also happens to have a fantastic restaurant! If you want fine dining, make sure you pre book and get there before 2pm. The views are spectacular. They also have a delicatessen which serves delicious salads with a kids menu. We had a light lunch while the kids played outside in the playground. It clearly wasn’t as good as the restaurant, but tasty and ideal for families.

After a leisurely scenic drive, we arrived back at Val du Charron. We did the obligatory tour of the ‘cellar’, which actually wasn’t all that impressive, but it had to be done! What I liked best was wandering around the estate and admiring the stunning views. The kids loved the resident Great Danes and the overall feeling of being on a farm. We decided to stay there that night too and tried the on site pizza restaurant. Complete with a splash park, it is ideal for kids, particularly when the weather is hot.

val du charron

Val du Charron is such a find. It is so important to have good food (and wine🍷) on site so you don’t have to think about driving. The grounds, vineyards and panoramic views must be some of the best in the Winelands of South Africa, I honestly think you would be hard pushed to find anywhere better. With two restaurants, 4-star Guesthouse and 5-star Coach House accommodation, all within an hours drive of Cape Town – what more could you want?

 

Search prices here

 

Planning a visit to South Africa? Check out all my posts from our adventures here.

Top Tips For Visiting South Africa

Cape Town – What to Do, Where to Stay, Where to Eat & Safety

Our Family Stay at Cape St Francis Resort, South Africa

A Luxury Safari at Amakhala Game Reserve, South Africa – The Ultimate Travel Experience

Sarah

The Travel Expert

 

DESTINATIONSRest of the World

Our Family Stay at Cape St Francis Resort, South Africa

Our own beach house with breakfast cooked for us each day and a magnificent sandy beach that stretched for miles, Cape St Francis Resort is a little piece of heaven.

 

After a quick two night stay in Plettenberg Bay, our Garden Route adventure led us to Cape St Francis. I assumed, like many, that Plettenberg Bay was the ‘best’ beach resort on the Garden Route. I was wrong. Located only sixty miles from Port Elizabeth, Cape St Francis boasts the mildest temperatures and the longest hours of sunshine on the coast. It’s unique location as the most south easterly point in South Africa allows you to see sunrise and sunset from the same vantage point – something I found astonishing! With a host of water-sports on the beach, as well as a top rated golf course close by and the chance to see dolphins and even whales (from August to December) – I am still lost as to why Cape St Francis is not more widely known.

When we arrived at Cape St Francis resort, I knew immediately we were going to love it here. Our beach house was amazing! A massive thatched house, just 100 meters from the beach with a BBQ, sun loungers and our own swimming pool, we were all blown away. There was even a rooftop with a table for sundowners! We were literally a minute walk from six miles of magnificent beach and so few people on it. The only problem was two days wasn’t going to be enough!

 

 

We spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool and decided to have a ‘braai’ (South African barbeque) that night. After two weeks of dining out for lunch and dinner, it was great to be able to sit in, relax and cook. The small shop on site had a selection of meat and salads and we had a nice bottle of wine from our recent stay in Val du Charron wine estate. It was perfect. The next morning, we were greeted by two ladies who said they had come to cook our breakfast. I had noticed that breakfast was included, but I had no idea it was going to be cooked and served up to us in our own house! What followed can only be described as a decadent display of fruits, granolas and yogurts. It was incredible, but it didn’t end there. We were then offered a hot food menu. We had choices of fried, poached, boiled or scrambled eggs, omelettes or a full breakfast with sausages, bacon, mushrooms, beans, tomato etc. I wasn’t sure whether to be embarrassed or grateful. Maybe I felt a bit of both, but it was an experience I will never forget.

cape st francis resort

Cape St Francis Resort has a real family holiday atmosphere. It reminded me of a Mediterranean holiday resort, and was completely different to any of the other places we had stayed in South Africa. It was founded by a back-packer in the early 70’s who initially built a hostel. While he still owns it he continues to travel the world, albeit on a luxury yacht! The food, the service and the accommodation is superb. There is a wide selection of accommodation options to choose from. There are self catering apartments, three and four bedroom cottages, four star beach villas, like the one we stayed in, and five star beach villas. This means that although you might be staying in a five star beach villa, the resort does not feel five star. The atmosphere is so relaxed, almost like a home from home.

cape st francis resort

We enjoyed lunch at the pool bar, Joe Fish.  All of the food was excellent and far superior to your average pool bar restaurant. I tried the healthy burger and it was was delicious, it was served without a bun but with salad and sweet potato fries. The kids were able to play happily in the pool while we enjoyed a leisurely lunch and soaked up the sun.

cape st francis resort

In fact it was so good we decided to dine in the restaurant for dinner on our second night. The restaurant didn’t have bright white walls and modern furniture, it was a mismatch of chairs and tables, in a room that looked homely, if even a little tired. It didn’t matter. We stayed in an expensive, modern beach club in Plettenberg Bay, a few days before, but ask me which I preferred? I would say Cape St Francis every time. There was no need to dress up, shorts and flip flops were perfect dinner attire and when dinner was over, I relived my youth as the live band rocked Sweet Child of Mine from the bar!

cape st francis resort

 

Things to do:

We decided to take a long walk the beach. We were told it was about 5km to the port but it took a lot longer and was more arduous than expected. We had a few brief scary moments when the weather closed in and we had to cross difficult dunes, we actually thought we were lost! However it was a great family achievement and one we will remember favourably. A  few hours later we arrived in the port, albeit with help from Tyler, a friendly guide who works in the resort.

cape st francis resort

Cape St Francis port is the only privately owned working harbour in South Africa and their calamari is exported all over the world. The place to go for food is the Chokka Block. This is renowned for calamari tasting, but it was fully booked while we were there, so make sure you book in advance.

cape st francis resort

When we initially drove into Cape St Francis we passed a small street with a sprinkling of shops and a bar. We naively thought this was the town. It was only when we decided to take a boat trip that afternoon, that we found the ‘real’ Cape St Francis. This pretty town has a selection of shops, bars and restaurants and is located beside upmarket canals. Many people stop here for a few days while driving the Garden Route, but don’t bother to venture outside the resort. This is a mistake. There is so much to do in the surrounding area. We took a cruise along the canals which took about an hour. We got terrific insight into the local area as we ogled at the multimillion euro thatched homes with speed boats parked outside! Built in 1967 by a local who came back from the Everglades, Cape St Francis Bay is world’s apart from the beach resort. We sat back and enjoyed some sundowners, it was so relaxing. This leisurely canal cruise can be booked at reception.

cape st francis resort

Cape St Francis is home to five nature reserves which have numerous walks and hiking trails. Seal Point and the Cape St Francis Lighthouse are next to the penguin rehabilitation centre, where African Penguins are rehabilitated before being released back into the wild. The penguin release rate is as high as 96% and with penguin releases every 10 days, you may even be lucky to witness one! If you want to travel further afield you can visit Baviaanskloof, the world’s largest nature reserve, about an hours drive from the resort. Expect to see deep gorges, mountain cliffs and stunning views as well as an abundance of wildlife. Ado Elephant Park boasts the largest concentration of elephants in the world where visitors can see over 100 elephants on one game drive. It is also home to lions, buffalo and various antelope. If you still feel the need for adventure, the world’s highest bridge bungee jump is located in Tsitsikamma National Park, as well as a host of other activities. Both Ado and Tsitsikamma are located just 90 minutes drive from Cape St Francis Resort.

cape st francis resort

 

Driving the Garden Route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth is a superb family holiday, I would go so far as to say, one of our best. But sometimes you need to just relax, stay in a holiday resort rather than a hotel. Cape St Francis Resort is that type of place – we were on our holidays after all! Plettenberg Bay, Jeffries Bay and Kynsna are all renowned as being the best places to stay on the Garden Route – but take the road less travelled and stop in Cape St Francis.  You won’t regret it.

 

Search prices here

 

Planning a trip to South Africa? Read all my posts from my South African adventures here.

Top Tips For Visiting South Africa

Cape Town – What to Do, Where to Stay, Where to Eat & Safety

Val du Charron Wine Estate – The Best Place to Stay in South Africa’s Winelands

A Luxury Safari at Amakhala Game Reserve, South Africa – The Ultimate Travel Experience

Sarah

The Travel Expert

Product ReviewsTravel News and ReviewsTravel Tips

Why Every Home Should Have A Canon Selphy Photo Printer!

canon selphy photo printer

Check out my review of the Canon Selphy photo printer and find out why every home should have one!

 

I bought a new phone about a year ago, and I already have 18,488 photos on it 🙈. Ok I know I probably take more photos than the average person, but I’m guessing if you look at your phone now, you will be amazed at how many photos you have stored. I think when most of us get a new phone, we download our old photos on to a laptop or desktop somewhere and tell ourselves we will go through them some day. And then the inevitable happens, we never look at them again….

canon selphy photo printer

I know ‘time’ is the new poverty but why is it that I can’t find five minutes to print my photos?  There are apps where we can create photo books and they will be delivered to us. Harvey Norman is constantly bombarding the airwaves with yet another special offer for photo printing in store. Yet I do neither. I leave them all on my phone, which is killing my storage, glance at the most recent ones and forget the rest. Even when I see my Facebook memories pop up a year later, I tell myself I must print those photos, but alas, it never happens. In fact, until a week ago I am ashamed to say that there were no framed pictures from the last two years, anywhere in my house! I have been fortunate to visit some amazing places in the last two years, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and California, yet I had not one picture showing any of these!

cape town

I happened to mention on one of my Instagram posts how I need to start printing photos again. Lo and behold a courier arrived at my door with a Canon Selphy photo printer! I couldn’t believe it, what an amazing gift to receive! I was thrilled but also amazed how compact it was.

canon selphy photo printer

It is SO easy to use, honestly I had printed my first picture in minutes. You just need to download the Canon Print / Selphy App from the App store and connect to the WiFi. Once you open the app you select ‘Photo Print’, ‘CameraRoll’, select a picture and press print. It is that easy! It only takes about one minute to print a picture, just watch my short video below. You can also print from cameras or other smart devices and it is portable. You can even bring it with you to parties and print up to 54 photos from its high capacity battery!

Luckily I had most of my favourite pics saved as favourites in my phone, so it actually didn’t take as long as I thought to find some nice ones to print. I asked the kids to tell me some of their favourite memories from the past few years and I also printed out some photos for them. Luke was thrilled to replace the photos from when he was in Thomas Land (7 years ago!) and Alex from her days playing dress up in the creche! In no time at all I had loads of my favourite photos printed, framed and hanging on the wall for us all to admire! I also bought a photo box for Luke and Alex and will continue to print photos from all our trips and life experiences. Now when they are older they will have their own box of photos to look back on, and hopefully share with their own kids. This is something I said I would do when they were born. Sadly I never did, but better late than never right?

canon selphy photo printer

I can’t recommend this Canon Selphy photo printer enough, it is so easy to use, takes up very little space and only costs £109.99! Thank You Canon, from now on we really will have memories that will last a life time…

See more details on canon.ie or shop here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

 

 

 

 

Disclosure:

I was given this camera as a gift from Canon but was not asked to write any review or post. All views, as always, are my own.

The shop here link contains an affiliate link which will cost you no more, but I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase.

Travel

October Bank Holiday Weekend in Iceland, Flights, Hotel, Transfers, Baggage & Blue Lagoon Excursion, €869.

Iceland aurora

Chase the Northern Lights, swim in the Blue Lagoon and drive the Golden Circle, spend the October bank holiday weekend in Iceland…

 

If Iceland is not already at the top of your bucket list – it should be! The landscape is dramatic, the people inspirational and with many natural wonders, lifetime memories are guaranteed. I went for a long weekend with my family last year and loved it. We saw the Northern Lights, swam in the Blue Lagoon and drove the Golden Circle. It was magical, even with snow storms! The Blue Lagoon is one of the 25 Wonders of the World, and bathing in it is heavenly! You can read all about my experience and top tips for visiting the Blue Lagoon here.

Many people choose to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights, I was no exception. It is one of those priceless life experiences that you will never forget. The optimum time for seeing the Northern Lights is from September to April so the October bank holiday weekend should be ideal. I would recommend booking the excursion for the first night of your trip. That way if they are not forecast for that night, and tours are cancelled, you can reschedule your excursion for the following night. This happened to us while we were there, but we were able to reschedule and fortunately we saw them dance across the sky. It was an extraordinary experience 💚.

I would also recommend the Golden Circle tour, a must for nature lovers! Stand on the edge of the magnificent Gullfoss Waterfall and hopefully catch a rainbow over head, visit the tectonic plates of America and Eurasia and see where they have been pulled apart. And last but not least, see the famous Strokkur Geysir, which erupts every few minutes, so you are guaranteed to see it! This full day tour will show you some of Iceland’s most dramatic scenery and you may even spot some Icelandic horses.


There are many flights available from Ireland, but I would always advise booking a package deal. Not only are good hotels with breakfast included in the cost, but an excursion to the Blue Lagoon (€140 if you were to buy it separately), checked baggage and airport transfers are also included. I have teamed up with Sunway who have a package deal to Iceland over the October bank holiday weekend from €869 per adult and €599 per child. Travelling solo? Price is just €999. You don’t need to pay the full amount in advance, a small deposit of €50 will secure a booking.

Sunway have two hotel options available. The modern 3* Reykjavik Lights Hotel, which is located 30 minutes walk from the centre of town, and 15 minutes from the outdoor activity park, which houses Iceland’s largest outdoor thermal pool. Prices from €869 per adult and €599 per child, including flights, transfers, checked baggage and excursion to the Blue Lagoon.

They also feature the 4* Grand Hotel Reykjavik, I stayed here and loved it. It is located 25 minutes walk from the town centre but the hotel has a complimentary shuttle bus that operates 3 times per day. It is also close to Laugardalur Park which has a swimming pool and a zoo! The lobby bar offers tasty food at reasonable prices and there is also a happy – hour from 5-7 where drinks are half price. Trust me, this is a massive bonus in Iceland 🍸. Superior rooms sleep two adults and two children with prices from €989 per adult and €599 per child, including flights, transfers, checked baggage and excursion to the Blue Lagoon. Travelling solo? Price is just €1249.

The flight departs Dublin for Iceland on the 26th of October. On arrival you will be met by Sunway’s local representative and brought straight to the Blue Lagoon, as it is located very close to the airport. This excursion includes a towel, face mask and a drink of choice from the Blue Lagoon Bar! The rest of the weekend you are free to explore all that Iceland has to offer. Visit the stunning Hallgrímskirkja church and see 360° views over the entire city from its viewing platform. Live like a local and bathe outdoors in one of the many thermal pools scattered around the city. Check out the colourful harbour or simply potter around the town and explore the local shops and restaurants, Reykjavik is renowned for its fine cuisine and remarkable architecture.

october bank holiday weekend in iceland
Ferdinand Stöhr

You can also prebook many excursions with Sunway before you go. A Northern Lights cruise or whale watching trip are both priced at €119 for adults and €59 for children aged 7 – 15 years. Kids 6 and under are free. You can also spend a full day traversing the Golden Circle (adults €86, kids 12-15yrs €45, 0-11yrs free). Why not discuss your requirements with the experienced sales staff in Sunway on 012311800.

 

So scratch one off the bucket list and spend the October bank holiday weekend in Iceland! For more details visit Sunway.ie.

This post was sponsored by Sunway but all views, as always, are my own.

 

Sarah

travel deals

 

Travel

500 Bonus Avios When You Shop via the Avios eStore in May!

online shopping

Are you shopping for your Summer holidays? Looking for a nice bikini, beach bag or sunglasses? Why not shop via the Avios eStore before the end of May and collect 500 bonus Avios!

 

Shopping via the Avios eStore couldn’t be easier. Click through to the eStore and log in using your AerClub log in details, and see all your favourite brands in one place! You won’t pay any more for shopping this way. Prices are exactly the same, but you will accumulate Avios while you shop. And now with 500 bonus Avios, you have the perfect excuse to buy some glamorous beachwear or a new set of luggage for your holidays! Note this bonus will be issued on the first qualifying transaction only, i.e you don’t get 500 extra Avios every time your make a purchase – it is one bonus per customer.

bonus avios

For those of you who have been following me on my journey, I have already accumulated over 47,000 Avios! I can upgrade to business class on my next Aer Lingus flight to New York and still have 10,000 Avios left over! Only 10% of my Avios were accumulated by flying, the rest by shopping. I shop in Supervalu regularly and convert my Real Rewards to Avios. Occasionally I shop in Kildare Village, but the majority of my points were accumulated by shopping via the Avios eStore. I’m not spending a fortune, I’m just clever with my purchases! Recently I bought new runners from Adidas and collected 1000 Avios. For anyone who is not familiar with Avios, read my blog post about how to get flights and upgrades with Avios points.

bonus avios

Here are some offers that are currently available via the eStore that I think might be of interest, but click here to shop all stores.

 

River Island: 6 Avios for every £1 spent

Not only will you collect 500 bonus Avios but you will also get triple Avios from now until the 27th of May if you shop at River Island via the Avios eStore. You normally receive 2 Avios for every £1 spent but their current promotion is 6 Avios for every £1 spent. That equates to 1100 Avios, including the bonus Avios, if you spend £100. Shop here.

bonus avios

 

Lookfantastic: 9 Avios; Debenhams: 3 Avios for every €1 spent

Stock up on your Summer essentials from beauty stores Lookfantastic or Debenhams. Whether it’s the latest skincare products, sunscreen or haircare remedies, why not collect Avios while you shop! Note extra Avios offer with Lookfantastic ends 27th May. Shop Debenhams here. Shop Lookfantastic here.

bonus avios

 

Marks & Spencer: 4 Avios for every €1 spent

No Summer holiday would be complete without a shop in Marks and Spencer! From underwear to beachwear, cute kidswear or men’s polo shirts – there is always something to be bought in M&S.  Shop here.

bonus avios

 

Adidas: 10 Avios for every €1 spent

Superstars, the latest Stella Mc Cartney gym gear, or kids football boots, there is something in the Adidas store to suit everyone. With a whopping 10 Avios for every €1 you spend, you can collect 1000 Avios buy purchasing a new pair of Superstars and also receive 500 bonus Avios! Shop here.

bonus avios

 

Groupon: 7 Avios for every €1 spent

Grab yourself a new set of luggage for your holidays or why not get your teeth whitened for the Summer. Groupon is your one stop daily deals website. Collect 700 Avios for every €100 spent on top of their already discounted prices. Shop here

bonus avios

 

Pretty Little Thing: 5 Avios; Boohoo: 3 Avios  for every €1 spent

Shopping for yourself or your daughter perhaps? Get the hottest Summer looks from the UK’s biggest online fashion stores and collect Avios at the same time.  Shop Pretty Little Thing here.  Shop Boohoo here.

bonus avios

 

ASOS: 7 Avios for every €1 spent

Did you know ASOS features many high street brands such as New Look, Missguided and Office as well as designer brands like Ted Baker, Ralph Lauren and All Saints? Or perhaps you just fancy a new beach bag… Shop here.

bonus avios

 

How to sign up?

If you are already an AerClub  member, your existing log in and password will suffice. Collect Avios points by clicking through to the Avios eStore. For those who have not yet joined, join Aer Lingus’ frequent flyer club – AerClub. Why not download the free Avios app too, it will allow you book flights on the go, check your Avios balance and find out where to collect.

bonus avios

 

Where else can I collect Avios points?  

There are many ways to collect Avios points but here are some of my favourites:

  • Fly with Aer Lingus, British Airways, Vueling, Flybe and Iberia and book car hire with Avis.
  • Shop at SuperValu, Kildare Village and Appleby.
  • Irish Independent are giving customers a staggering 30,000 Avios points if you subscribe to the Irish and Sunday Independent for six months.

bonus avios

T&Cs

500 Bonus Avios are given when you shop via Avios eStore (Irish eStore only) between 7 – 31 May inclusive. Bonus will be issued on first qualifying transaction only. One Bonus per customer. Selected retailers are excluded from this offer and certain exclusions apply to each stores, see individual retail pages within the Avios eStore for details. Note all hotel and travel bookings are excluded from this Bonus Avios offer.

Click here to shop the eStore

 

This post was sponsored by Avios, but all views, as always, are my own.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

 

Travel Tips

My Favourite Travel Hacks As Discussed on Newstalk

travel hacks

I discussed my favourite Travel Hacks on Newstalk FM. Check out my top tips and tricks to save you time, money and make your next trip away a little easier.

 

Compare Like with Like

 

Tour Operators / Travel Agents v Booking direct.

Many travel agents and tour operators packages include checked baggage and transfers. If you need to pay for a checked bag with Aer Lingus, it will cost you €110 to Lanzarote for 20kg in July. Likewise if you are staying in the North of Majorca or the west coast of the Algarve, it could cost €200 for return airport transfers. The cheap deal you thought you had managed to get direct, may not be so cheap afterall.

USA & Long haul flights:

It is important to compare like with like on long haul flights as checked baggage and meals is no longer standard. With low cost carriers like WOWair and Norwegian now offering regular flights from Ireland to the USA, you need to compare what you are getting versus flying direct with other carriers who include meals, seats and checked baggage. Norwegian are charging an additional €130 on a return flight to New York for a 20kg checked bag, seat reservation and a meal on board. They also fly into Stewart Airport which is 90 minutes from New York city, and have no inflight entertainment on board… WOW air fly into JFK but they only allow you bring a hand bag with their cheaper air fares. You need to add on a carry on bag and a checked bag if required. The cost for a carry on, checked bag and a standard seat is €150 return. Inflight meals are extra! Airlines like Ethiopian airlines who fly direct to Los Angeles include 2 checked bags as standard as well as free inflight meals and drinks.

review of ethiopian airlines

European flights

There are so many new carriers flying from Ireland but we tend to only look at Aer Lingus and Ryanair, when booking flights to Europe. Icelandair are now flying direct to Iceland as well as WOW air, Scandinavian Airlines and Norwegian are flying direct to Copenhagen, Cobalt air to Cyprus, Aegean airlines to Athens and Vueling and Iberia Express fly to Barcelona and Madrid respectively. Don’t limit yourself to one airline. It may be cheaper to fly out with one and back with another. Also the flight times might suit better if you use two carriers. Websites like Skyscanner will show you all available flights to a destination in price order. You can also sign up for price alerts so if you are looking at a particular route, you will receive an email to tell you if the price has gone down. Alternatively talk to your local travel agent, they will know instantly who flies where and the best prices.

** Sign up to newsletters so you are notified of sales and special offers **


Weather 

Before you book any holiday it is important to gauge what the weather will be like. Wunderground.com is an excellent resource for checking historical weather. It will show you the temperature and rainfall for the same period you are looking to travel, over the past number of years.

travel hacks 

Passports

Use the passport reminder service, enter your details on line now and you will get a reminder 3 months before your passport is due to expire. Once you get this reminder, renew your passport online. It is so easy, check out my definitive guide to renewing your passport online. You can even upload your own photo from your smart phone now. Note this is only for existing passport holders. New passports have to go through the normal channels. Check the turnaround times on the Passport website and never assume that Passport Express is 2 weeks – it rarely is.

travel hacks

Take Out Car Hire Excess Insurance 

This is a personal bug bear of mine. When you arrive at an airport, particularly with kids in tow, the car hire companies always insist you have insurance excess policies, and they are usually charging exorbitant rates. You can avoid paying these by taking out a car hire excess insurance policy with CarHireExcess.com before you travel. With prices from €2.99 per day instead of €15 per day (approx cost), this is something that everyone should have, if hiring a car abroad.

travel hacks   

Online Tools

 

Check in on-line

Checking in online will not only save long airport queues but it may ensure you get the best seats available. For airlines like Ryanair, you HAVE to print your boarding passes before hand, most other airlines this isn’t necessary. Although I would recommend doing it anyway, to save time checking in.

Pre-book seats.

Pre book seats where possible, www.seatguru.com is the ‘tripadvisor’ for seats! Use this website to find out where the best seats are on an aircraft, read honest reviews from travellers who have flown on the same aircraft. If travelling long haul, pre book specific meals so you will be served first, particularly if it’s a night flight and you want to sleep. I find the vegetarian options are usually the best!

travel hacks

Pre book attraction tickets:

It is almost always cheaper to pre book attractions on line. Not only will it save you money but it will also save you time queuing. Check the local tourist boards for free activities and for discovery passes. Usually you will find a bulk attraction / city pass is cheaper than paying for each attraction separately. Websites such as Attraction Tickets Direct also offer discounts for booking in advance and offer real tickets so you can avoid queuing for tickets at your destination.

 

Join Frequent Flyer Clubs 

You will be amazed at how quickly you can accumulate points, even if you are not a frequent traveller. Most clubs are now affiliated with Hotel chains or retailers so you can collect points in various different ways. This may enable you to get a free flight, an upgrade or a hotel stay.

travel hacks

 

Useful Travel Apps

If travelling outside Euro, know the exchange rates. This is a common mistake. You arrive tired and although you may have known the currency conversion before you left home, the likelihood is you have forgotten once you arrive. Don’t end up paying huge money for taxis or tipping hotel staff the wrong amount because you don’t know the proper exchange rate. Download the XE currency app – it also works offline ( you dont need to be connected to wifi or use roaming).

The Tripadvisor app is invaluable when checking restaurant or attraction reviews. It will also send you push notifications about highly rated restaurants or attractions close by.



If you haven’t already downloaded the UBER cab app, do it before you go on holidays. Arriving into a strange country and being unsure of taxi fares can be daunting. Just use the app to book an uber, it is much safer and will probably save you money too!

Many people don’t realise but Google Maps can also be used off line. Download your route plans before you leave home and use them when on holidays. Google translate is another excellent tool, you can use your phone’s camera to photograph menus, sign posts etc, and it will translate them to English for you.

travel hacks

Travelling with kids

 

Ditch the trunkis

I have many travel tips for travelling with kids but one of my favourites is to invest in light weight hand luggage. Get rid of the trunkis as soon as they are able to wheel heavier cases. Kids like wheeling their own cases anyway and if you invest in the best lightweight case available you can save a fortune on checked baggage charges. I tell my kids they can bring whatever fits in their case, this usually works out well when packing! Buy a portable luggage scales and bring with you to avoid stress of thinking you may be over weight. You can buy them for less than €10.

travel hacks

City Breaks

If travelling on a city break, choose an early flight home. Once you have checked out of the hotel, the kids will just want to go home and you will spend a fortune trying to amuse them on the last day. The €30 saving you thought you had by coming back on the later flight, believe me you will spend it twice over. For city breaks where there is a lot of walking involved, buy a cheap fold up scooter from Smyths for €15 and depending on your weight allowance, leave it behind you if necessary.

travel hacks

Buy a media share

Although I would like to say that my kids don’t need electronic devices to on holidays, they can be a Godsend. Invest in a Media share, it’s a small portable device that creates it’s own wifi network so kids can watch movies on their tablets or phones anywhere, even on a plane. It is also really compact so much easier to carry than a portable DVD player and lots of DVDs.

travel hacks

Email the hotel

Avoid bringing the kitchen sink. Most hotels have baby equipment so you wont have to bring your own. These are not always advertised in brochures incase 20 families ask for buggies, sterilisers or bottle warmers at the same time. Call or email the hotel before hand and ask them what equipment they have and pre book if possible.

 

Like Travel Tips ? See more here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

 

 

Long HaulRest of the WorldTravel News and Reviews

My Review of Ethiopian Airlines Service from Dublin to Cape Town

Ethiopian Airlines

Wonder what it is like to fly with Ethiopian Airlines? Check out my review of Ethiopian airlines business class and economy class service.

 

I travelled to Cape Town with my family over Easter holidays. Getting cheap flights at this time can usually be tricky. Luckily I found great airfares ( €424 return inc taxes ) with Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa. Flying direct to Addis on a state-of-the-art Dreamliner aircraft, and not having to go through London, was a dream come true. I also looked at various options going via the Emirates, but the overall journey times were longer and they were more expensive. 

Before I left, I did some research into upgrading my economy class tickets to business class. Ethiopian Airlines have a great option to upgrade their flights at Dublin airport, for circa €500 per person, subject to availability. I was very kindly offered two business class upgrades as far as Addis Ababa, but as there were four of us travelling, I decided to pay for the other two, so we could all sample the service together. We flew onwards to Cape Town in economy class and our return flights were also in economy, so I was fortunate to experience both classes. So what was the service like? Check out my full review of Ethiopian Airlines service below.

Business Class

My first tip when flying business class is get to the airport on time. Unfortunately there was an accident on the airport road, so we arrived at the check-in desk a little late. This meant that although we had the advantage of speedy check-in at the business class area, we didn’t have time to use the executive lounge, which is provided free of charge for all Ethiopian Airlines business class passengers.

Instead we had to go straight to the gate, but we have the pleasure of boarding the aircraft first. When we were shown to our seats, I was so glad I opted to upgrade, the look on my kids faces said it all. They couldn’t believe the size of their seats. To my delight the flight attendant kindly offered them some orange juice and hot towels before take off. This was a welcome distraction and finally stopped them from reclining the seats over and over again!

review of ethiopian airlines

I can safely say it was the easiest flight I have ever flown with kids. I don’t think I heard ‘Are we nearly there?’ once! They happily sat back and enjoyed the on-demand movies and 85 channels from their 15 inch screens! My daughter Alex shrieked with delight when she saw the newly released Disney movie Coco was available, and my son Luke was delighted to be able to see the latest Marvel movie, especially as it was a 12’s movie and he was only 10!

They couldn’t believe that were able to order from a menu for dinner – I could have flown anywhere in the world with them, it was so easy. This made the flight so enjoyable for myself and my husband too. We enjoyed movies, nice food and drinks, all from the comfort of our reclining seats.

review of ethiopian airlines

The flight attendants were very attentive and immediately offered a choice of magazines and orange juice before take-off. We were also given amenity kits filled with toiletries, that were fitted with handy hooks. The business class seats are superb. Not only do they lie-flat but they are very spacious, with loads of places to put your bags. When the seat was completely flat I didn’t have to move my hand bag to the over head bin, which I had to do on other airlines.

review of ethiopian airlines

We were served dinner and breakfast on this flight. At dinner I enjoyed the lamb and herb terrine starter, but unfortunately they did not have my first choice of salmon for main course. I opted for the cheese and spinach ravioli. I felt it was a little bland but my son managed to get the salmon, which I tasted, and it was delicious! I opted to finish it off with some tasty cheese and crackers and copious amounts of red wine! In fact any time my glass was finished, the flight attendant duly topped me up. Desert was a tasty selection of petit fours, followed by Lily O Brien’s Irish chocolates!

review of ethiopian airlines

Breakfast was a choice of fruits, cereals and pastries, with a choice of French toast with whipped cream and fruit, or scrambled eggs with sausage, tomatoes and potatoes. I had the former and my husband, the latter, both were equally good.

review of ethiopian airlines

Sadly it was time to leave our business class seats and change to economy for the second leg of our journey. Unfortunately we had a three hour wait in Addis Ababa, which trust me, is not the best airport in the world for a layover. If we had onward business class flights, we would have been able to use Ethiopian Airlines lounge. Sadly no amount of sweet talking worked, they would not let us in! This got me thinking that upgrading at the airport is probably not the most sensible thing to do if it is not a direct flight. Ethiopian Airlines charge a similar fee (€500), to upgrade to business class on their direct Dublin – Los Angeles service, which is probably better value.

review of ethiopian airlines

If you want to fly business class to Cape Town, you are better off to prebook this for the entire journey at the time of booking. At the time of issue a return business class fare to Cape Town is €1717, which is nearly half the price of other airlines on the same route. If this is still too pricey for you, you can try to ‘bid’ for an upgrade a few weeks before departure. When you book online with Ethiopian Airlines, you will receive an email a few weeks before you are due to depart, asking if you would like to ‘bid’ for an upgrade. With minimum offers starting at €300 per sector, this can be a very worthwhile exercise.

review of ethiopian airlines

Ethiopian Airlines are a 4* airline so while their ‘Cloud Nine’ business class service certainly exceeded my expectations, I would still rate it as a 4* business class service. While the seat pitch is extremely generous (65″compared to Aer Lingus 58″), there are a few things that should be pointed out to give a balanced review. Ethiopian Airlines doesn’t offer dine on demand, i.e all business class passengers eat at the same time.

There is no WiFi on board, although I believe it is coming soon. Wine was served in small plastic glasses and creamer is served with tea, not milk. None of these really bothered me – well maybe the milk! The flight overall was great and it is exceptional value when you consider the cost of flying business class with other airlines. We received excellent service from the traditionally dressed flight attendants too!

review of ethiopian airlines

Economy Class

Our onward flight from Addis to Cape Town was in the early hours of the morning so I wasn’t able to review this flight properly, as we all spent most of it asleep! The return flight however was a different story. We departed Cape Town at 3pm for a six and a half hour flight to Addis. This was the perfect time to leave. The flight was thoroughly enjoyable. With a choice of 80 different channels in economy class and our own personal TV screens, we were all delighted to sit back and watch some movies.

review of ethiopian airlines

We noted that the same new releases that were showing in business class, were also available in economy class. There was no menu in economy class but we were pleasantly surprised when our dinner arrived. I had a bag full of crackers and snacks in reserve for the kids, but I didn’t need it. Myself, Luke and Alex ate the chicken curry and my husband Cormac, enjoyed the pasta. Overall we were very pleased. Ethiopian offer complimentary drinks and meals throughout the flight, so with plenty of creature comforts we arrived in Addis feeling very fresh!

review of ethiopian airlines

The return leg has a shorter lay over in Addis, only 90 minutes. By the time we had disembarked, it was almost time to board the second flight. Our flight departed at midnight from Addis, so there was only one thing to do, lie back and try to sleep. Once again we were on the Dreamliner aircraft, which Ethiopian Airlines use for all of their flights in and out of Dublin airport. The cabin is very spacious, with mood lighting and reduced cabin noise. The cabin pressure is set to a lower altitude which allows for better air quality and helps with travel fatigue.

review of ethiopian airlines

The large windows are actually dimmable, so if the sunlight is waking you up in the morning, you can just reduce the light coming in with a touch of a button! The seats are very comfortable too with moveable head rests, a 8.9 inch personal TV screen and a generous 32 inch seat pitch. They also have USB ports if you want to charge your phone or electronic device. We were given amenity kits which consisted of flight socks, an eye mask, a toothbrush and paste, as well as a warm blanket and pillow. We reclined our seats and off we went to sleep, only to be awoken by the flight attendants, asking us to adjust our seats for landing.

review of ethiopian airlines

It was a dream flight! The combination of the flying times and the excellent service, left me in no doubt that I would certainly fly with Ethiopian Airlines again. In fact I even signed up for their frequent flyer program when I got home! I feel another trip to Africa coming soon……….

 

Ethiopian Airlines fly four times weekly from Dublin airport to Cape Town via Addis Ababa. Their flight prices are one of the lowest on the route, and include two 23kg checked bags with free meals and drinks on board. At the time of issue return flights from Dublin to Cape Town are €474 including taxes. Visit EthiopianAirlines.com for more details.

 

Interested in travelling to Cape Town? Read my Travel Guide to Cape Town – What To Do, Where To Stay, Where To Eat & Safety

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

Travel News and ReviewsTravel Tips

42% Of Travellers Experienced Flight Delays or Cancellations Recently – Have You Travel Disruption Cover?

cancelled

Are you one of the 42% of holiday makers that experienced flight delays or cancellations recently?

 

Ireland’s leading travel insurance brand Multitrip.com have revealed some startling statistics in their latest travel survey. A staggering 42% of people have recently experienced flight delays or cancellations, while 34% confirmed that they are worried about air strikes. With 88% of people planning to go on two or more holidays this year, it is not only vital that we all have travel insurance, but travel disruption cover is becoming a necessity.

Insurance is one of those purchases that unfortunately we only really value when something goes wrong.  I always take my insurance with Multitrip.com and just renew it each year without asking any questions. However I like many of you, found myself asking what exactly am I covered for? Most insurance policies will not cover you for ‘acts of God’ like hurricanes or volcano eruptions or for airline strikes or closures. Remember the Icelandic ash cloud? 100,000 flights were cancelled and many people were left stranded for weeks. More recently Ryanair cancelled hundreds of flights and left people who had booked accommodation separately, out of pocket. Hurricane Irma and the Beast from the East also grounded air travel for days.

ryanair

 

It is important to know that Multitrip.com  have a Travel Disruption Cover which can be added to your insurance policy from as little as €10 (single trip policy) and €17 (annual policy) and will provide you with additional cover in the event of adverse weather conditions, airline cancellations and even strikes.

travel disruption cover

Like all insurance policies however, you can’t purchase Travel Disruption Cover after something goes wrong… Once you have added it to your policy it will be effective seven days later, so don’t wait until you hear about the next hurricane, or rumours of air traffic control strikes – add it to your policy now!  Travel Disruption Cover offers extended cover under delayed departure, missed departure and accommodation sections, should your flight be cancelled or delayed as a result of strike or adverse weather conditions.

  • If your flight is cancelled or delayed for more than 12 hours it covers additional accommodation and travel costs up to €1,000.
  • If your flight is cancelled or delayed for more than 12 hours then you can claim back up to €1,000 for irrecoverable unused travel and accommodation costs should you cancel.
  • Claim back up to €1,000 for accommodation if you have to be moved from your current location or cut your trip short because of flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption etc
  • Covers cancellation or curtailment charges should the Foreign & Commonwealth Office or World Health Organisation advise against travel to the country or specific area you are travelling to.
  • Gives you control of the situation and the added security that you have sufficient cover should an airline cancel, delay or redirect your flight after take-off.

Multitrip.com is offering two year travel insurance from €31.99. For prices, bookings and more details on Travel Disruption Cover, visit Multitrip.com or speak to your travel agent.

 

Related articles on the blog:

Cancelled Flight? – What to do when things go wrong.

Top tips for booking travel insurance.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

 

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