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2 years ago

DestinationsLong HaulRest of the World

How To Plan The Perfect South African Road Trip

val du charron

Need help to plan the perfect South African road trip? We travelled from Cape Town to the Winelands and along the Garden Route, over sixteen days. Find out where to stay, where to eat and lots more tips and tricks in this post.

 

 

South Africa has to be one of the world’s best travel destinations. Where else can you combine one of the world’s most iconic cities with stunning beaches, an abundance of wildlife, adrenaline pumping activities and such diverse landscapes. And let’s not forget the wine – that’s pretty good too 🍷. Our South African road trip took two weeks exploring this amazing country and we only scratched the surface.

We decided on the typical tourist trail for a few reasons, to see Cape Town and the Garden Route and also to stick to Malaria free zones. We flew to Cape Town, spent four nights exploring the city before chilling out in a stunning wine estate in Wellington. Like most tourists, we then drove the Garden Route which culminated in a three night safari in Amakhala Game Reserve. I have written posts on some of our individual stays and have added links below to help you plan the perfect South African road trip.

South African Road Trip – Cape Town

Our first stop was Cape Town, which was a great start. We arrived energised and were able to see the highlights in four days. It would have been nice to have one extra day to see Robben Island, but other than that, I think we nailed it 🙂  I would advise you to stay at the Waterfront. We stayed at the Waterfront Village apartments and they were superb. The Waterfront is safe, central and great for dining out at night time.

south african road trip

No visit to Cape Town would be complete with a trip to Table Mountain. We took the easy route and went by cable car, but if you are feeling energetic you can hike up to the top. However no matter how warm it is in Cape Town, it is a lot colder up there – so bring a jumper with you! Although you don’t need a car in Cape Town, I would recommend getting one for your last day – if for no other reason that to drive the Cape Peninsula drive. This was one of our highlights. The scenery is spectacular. We went to Cape Point, swam with penguins and found the coolest beach bar. I also managed to paraglide off Signal Hill during my stay! Read my blog post to find out all my tips and tricks on Cape Town where to stay, where to eat and safety here.

 

South African Road Tip – Winelands

After an action packed four days, we enjoyed a two night relaxing break in Val du Charron, a magnificent wine estate in Wellington. We explored Franschoek, Stellenbosch and the neighbouring countryside as well as sampling some of South Africa’s best wines. I wasn’t a fan of Stellenbosch, it was more like a built up holiday resort than a country town. It was not at all what I had imagined. Val du Charron turned out to the be perfect choice. You can read all about my stay at Val du Charron wine estate here.

south african road trip

The Garden Route

We then drove the Garden Route, which depending on the time of year you travel, can be a tough nut to crack. The drive itself is idyllic, with dramatic mountain passes and magnificent landscapes. We had no issues with safety along the Garden Route, in fact there were police cars everywhere and we felt at ease throughout our journey. Towns like Hermanus are ideal for whale watching – but make sure you choose the right season!

We decided to drive straight to Oudtshoorn. Although a five hour drive, it was ideal for us as we wanted to stay further along the Eastern Cape. Oudtshoorn is not the prettiest of towns and isn’t somewhere I would recommend staying for longer than a night or two. It is famous for it’s ostrich farms (which I wasn’t particularly fond of ), and for being the main town of the Klein Karoo area of South Africa’s Western Cape. We stayed in De Zeekoe, a lovely hotel with traditional guest rooms, chalets and cottages.

south african road trip

Pretty towns like Kynsna and Wilderness are definitely worth exploring and for a true South African adventure, I would recommend an overnight stay in the Tenequia Tree Tops. We decided to go straight to Plettenberg Bay, a famous upmarket seaside town to get some much needed beach time. Although a small town, there is a nice sprinkling of high quality restaurants and bars. If you do decide to stay here – don’t miss dinner at The Fat Fish! We stayed in the Robberg Beach Lodge, which is ideally situated right on the beach and was the perfect place to catch the sunrise.

The surrounding area is ideal for day trips. We stopped at Tsitsikamma National Park and witnessed people jumping off the highest bungee bridge jump in the world. You can also go white water rafting or visit the famous Addo Elephant National Park.

South African Road Trip – Beach Resort: Cape St Francis

As much as we liked Plettenberg Bay, it was not a patch on our next stop, Cape St Francis Resort. This was like a little piece of heaven and it is somewhere I would love to go back to – I don’t say that very often! We stayed in a stunning beach house with miles of white sand on our doorstep.  Read all about our family stay in Cape St Francis Resort here.

south african road trip

South African Road Trip: Game Reserve

We were reluctant to leave Cape St Francis but our South African adventure was not over yet. We finished off the trip with a three night stay at Amakhala Game Reserve. We decided to treat ourselves at the end of our trip and stay the five star Bush Lodge. We had an incredible family experience. We stayed in a luxurious ‘tent’ (tent does not adequately describe what we were staying in!) and saw some amazing animals. You can read all about our luxury safari at Amakhala Game Reserve here.

south african road trip

I learned lots of tips and tricks, where to stay and where to avoid, in our sixteen day adventure. I have advice on travelling with kids, taxis, car minders (yes there is such a thing) and lots more. I have published my top tips for travelling in South Africa in this post – I hope you will find it useful.

south african road trip

How to get there:

We flew with Ethiopian Airlines who offer a service four times weekly from Dublin airport 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. We booked all our accommodation in Cape Town and throughout South Africa, through a travel agency. The meet and greet service at the airport was excellent where we received a full travel digest of things to do in Cape Town and in all of our stops. This also contained travel distances, maps with Sat-Nav coordinates and top travel tips – the perfect combination for a South African road trip.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

DestinationsLong HaulRest of the World

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

amakhala lion jeep

A three night luxury safari at Amakhala Game Reserve – what a way to finish off our South African adventure! We stayed in a five star tent, saw countless animals and had the ultimate travel experience.

 

Nothing can compare to spending the night in a tented camp when you know there are wild animals wandering around outside. The excitement as you hear the sound of a tree rustling or the cry of an animal, as you scour the landscape hoping to spot one of the ‘Big 5’. Spending days in the African Savannah with no other cars, shops or electronic devices; a safari holiday is, to quote the cliché, ‘a travel experience’ and is world’s apart from everyday life.

amakhala

I have always been a bit of an animal lover and twenty years ago I went on my first safari in South Africa. I loved it so much I booked a holiday to Tanzania the following year. My ten year son, Luke, didn’t scrape it off the ground, he has been an animal fanatic since he was a toddler. In fact when Luke was a year old, he could name all the main farm animals, and this was before he could say ‘Mama’! I had annual passes for Dublin Zoo for seven years and we went constantly – we also visited Fota Wildlife Park, twice. Luke watches re-runs of Deadly 60, National Geographic and Planet Earth over and over and keeps pestering me to get a pet – something I still haven’t given in to yet. I did however strike a compromise and promised to bring him on safari in Africa once he was old enough. Sure enough his 10th birthday came around and he asked me when we were going!

We decided to book a holiday to  South Africa so we could combine a city break with some beach time and of course, the all important safari experience. We flew into Cape Town and then drove the Garden Route to Amakhala Game Reserve. You can read my top tips on how to plan the perfect South African road trip here.

 

I chose Amakhala Game Reserve because I had heard it was particularly suitable if travelling with children. I also wanted somewhere that was malaria free, and where we were guaranteed to see lots of game through an authentic safari experience. Amakhala is a massive 18,000 acre game reserve and has a wide variety of 3, 4 and 5 star accommodation, ranging from restored country houses to tented camps. We decided to treat ourselves as the safari was the main reason for our trip and we really wanted the wow factor. We were recommended Bush Lodge in Amakhala for a luxurious safari experience. 

amakhala

 

After a leisurely ninety minute drive from Cape St Francis Resort, where we stayed for two nights, we arrived at Reed Valley Inn, Amakhala’s reception, which looked more like a colonial house than a safari lodge. We were immediately greeted by Penny, a friendly staff member who introduced the kids to the house pets as we were checking in. She told us to leave the car at the house and she would take us to Bush lodge. We would not see our car again for three days – it was almost symbolic, we were venturing into the African bush and no longer needed modern accoutrements….

amakhala

We arrived at the main lodge and I knew instantly we were going to love it here. The comfy leather couches and massive wooden dining table immediately caught my eye, as did the expansive outdoor viewing deck, that happened to overlook a watering hole. I imagined us sitting around the large open firepit at night time, watching the animals at the watering hole and the stars in the night sky. The wow factor had kicked in already and we hadn’t even seen our tent yet!

amakhala

There are eight tents at Bush Lodge, all located close to the main lodge and within minutes we were standing outside ours. The excitement was palpable. When I say a tent, this doesn’t adequately describe what we were staying in. We opened the door to see a massive room with a thatched roof, tented walls and a wooden floor. There was a king size bed, free standing bath, a fireplace, an outdoor shower, plunge pool and a separate bedroom for the kids – to say it was everything we had hoped for is an understatement. It was spectacular.

 

All of the Bush Lodge tents overlook a watering hole and it wasn’t long before our first visitor arrived. A giraffe walked majestically towards the watering hole and Luke was mesmerised. He was so excited and I was so happy for him. It was a bit of a struggle, but we finally managed to tear ourselves away from our verandah and made it to dinner.

amakhala

Dinner is served at the massive dining table in the main lodge, where all guests dine together. There was a great mix of people and nationalities staying at Amakhala, including an American family with kids similar ages to ours. Despite this, my two chatted incessantly to newlyweds from Wexford! Traditionally people tend to book the safari at the end of their holiday and this was the case with most of the guests. We all enjoyed talking about where we stayed in South Africa and comparing the various stops along the Garden Route. Some of the guests had arrived the previous day so we listened intently to thrilling stories of animal sightings and hoped our first game drive the following day would be as exciting.

amakhala

 

We enjoyed an à la carte dinner and there was a good mix of European style food, chicken, pasta etc, as well as local dishes. My husband tried the Kudu steak and it was delicious. There was no separate kids menu but each day after lunch we were shown the menu and if the kids didn’t like the choices available, they were offered alternative child friendly options. After copious amounts of delicious South African red wine (at only 70 cent per glass!), we made our way to our tent and anxiously awaited our 6am wake up call, for our 6.30 game drive. TOP TIP: Unlike many hotels, Amakhala encourage you to check in early. Try to arrive in time for lunch (all meals are included in the cost of your stay) and then you will be able to take the afternoon game drive.

amakhala

 

I don’t think we were ever so happy to hear our alarm go off at 6am. We jumped out of bed, had a quick shower outside, (which was roasting by the way) and went straight to the lodge for coffee and croissants. We met Melissa for the first time and she told us that she was going to be our ranger for our entire stay. We immediately warmed to her soft South African accent and overall pleasant manner. We boarded a large Landrover Defender that was parked outside and off we went. I was surprised to see no other guests in our vehicle but this varies depending on the time of year, the maximum number of guests in a jeep is nine, although we never had any more than seven at any time.

amakhala

It was quite cold when we set off, which we found strange considering it was 32 degrees at midday. Luckily there were warm blankets on the jeep so we were able to wrap these around us until the sun came up. Within minutes we spotted giraffe, wart hogs and impala. In the midst of all of this, Melissa stopped the jeep when she spotted a giant African land snail in the middle of the path. She immediately moved it off the path out of harms way. It was wonderful to see her love of all animals straight away and her enthusiasm was infectious.

amakhala

The sun started to rise in the sky when we spotted a tower of giraffe (a tower is the correct term believe it or not!) and a herd of zebra – two animals that are iconic to Africa, it was a good start! It was one of those ‘pinch-me’ moments as the giraffes stopped right beside the jeep and grazed over the tall trees. We could hear them clearly munching leaves, it was incredible. Melissa explained to us how giraffes walk with two legs on the same side which is something I never noticed before, it is the opposite to cats and dogs and most animals. It was also fascinating to see how different the zebras stripes were, every zebra is has unique markings. It was facts like this which Melissa pointed out constantly, that kept us intrigued at every animal sighting. Reluctantly we had to move on, but on we went in search of more game.

 

We came across impala and many cute wart hogs before stopping for coffee, tea and muffins at a panoramic viewing point. It was only then I realised the true size of Amakhala game reserve. It has 18,000 acres, with a river running through it and has extremely diverse landscapes. In fact if it wasn’t for the water shortage in South Africa we could have opted for a river safari – something guests can experience on a three day visit.

amakhala

After our three hour game drive we were warmly welcomed at Bush Lodge with hot towels and friendly faces. We went straight in for breakfast which was an amazing buffet display of fruits, breads and cereals as well as the option to order hot food à la carte, which we duly enjoyed!

breakfast at amakhala

 

After breakfast we enjoyed some chill time in our tent. Ideally should have had a snooze but the excitement was too much and sleep just wasn’t going to happen. Instead the kids spent hours with their binoculars gazing at the watering hole, amidst the odd paddle in the plunge pool. I decided to relax on a sun lounger and enjoy the views. I attempted a swim but water was freezing, I realised the reason it was called a plunge pool!


After an à la carte lunch we ventured out on our next game drive. We saw giraffes, various antelope and wart hogs before I heard Luke roar ‘Lion’! Melissa wasn’t sure at first but lo and behold there was a large male lion walking towards us in the distance. Melissa immediately drove towards it and much to our surprise she stopped right behind him.

lion at amakhala

I couldn’t believe how close we got, my daughter Alex (7) was actually scared and couldn’t understand why we were going so close, or following it for that matter! For the rest of us, it was thrilling. I thought Luke was going to combust he was so excited! We spent about thirty minutes with this magnificent animal but had to move on eventually to allow other guests to see him. Amakhala have a strict policy that no more than three jeeps can be close to one of the ‘BIG 5, (lion, buffalo, rhino, leopard, elephant) at any time. As much as we didn’t want to leave him, I was happy with the reason why.

amakhala

 

Just as we thought the day couldn’t get any better we spotted a massive herd of elephants, including a tiny baby elephant that was only a few weeks old. They crossed right in front of the jeep, it was an amazing end to our first day!. We arrived back at Bush Lodge to a delicious meal surrounded by equally enthusiastic guests. We recounted our day to each other, listening to exciting stories about the various game that was seen that day and showing off our impressive photographs.

amakhala

Our second day of game drives was equally impressive. In the morning we saw two elusive rhino. Melissa reminded us of the serious problem that has arisen with poachers and that there was an anti-poaching team on site 24/7 watching their rhino. A scary reminder of the world we live in. We also saw a cheetah, relaxing at the side of the road. It was bizarre, she almost looked comfortable with us watching her. She sat still for about twenty minutes, only moving her head slightly.

cheetah at amakhala

 

Our afternoon drive was another incredible experience. We saw a large male elephant walk towards a watering hole to take a bath in the blistering heat. He happened to be surrounded by a herd of buffalo and he spent ages enjoying the cool water. It was an another pinch-me moment. I felt like I was David Attenborough witnessing something extremely rare.

elephant taking a bath at amakhala

To complete the safari experience, Melissa took us to another magnificent viewing point and proceeded to take out some refreshments. I couldn’t help but notice she brought the red wine that we had enjoyed so much the night before. She also brought juice and crisps for the kids. Sundowners in the open plains, with wine, beef jerky and light snacks – what a perfect end to a perfect day!

sundowners at amakhala

 

We took another game drive on our last morning as our flight wasn’t leaving until the afternoon.  I would encourage anyone visiting to try to coordinate your check-in and departure times to allow for as many game drives as possible. We were so glad we took this final drive as we came across a group of lionesses playing together. Melissa knew it was our last morning and that we hadn’t seen them. She really went out of her way to find them for us and was constantly on the radio with her colleagues to find out if they had been seen. Throughout our visit she was so attentive to Luke and Alex and I really felt that our experience mattered so much to her.

amakhala

Like a dog with a bone, Melissa eventually found the pride of lions and once again drove up close to them. I had mixed emotions of fear and excitement. We watched closely, you could hear a pin drop, as one of the lionesses walked towards us while another used our jeep as cover when she spotted a wildebeest in the distance. We thought she may go in for the kill but alas this didn’t happen. However, what did was another amazing experience. Three lionesses played together in the wild – it was magical. At one point the sun was behind them, it was straight out of a National Geographic magazine. We watched them for about a half hour but I could have watched them all day.

amakhala

 

It is so difficult to describe the difference between seeing lions playing together in the wild and watching them in a closed environment, like a zoo or wildlife park. I suppose it’s like watching your favourite movie star on TV and then meeting him in the flesh – it’s a completely different experience. It was only a matter of time before the other jeeps arrived to witness this incredible sight and unfortunately it was time for us to make our leave.

amakhala lion

We drove back to the lodge feeling we had witnessed something special, and it was not just the lionesses playing. Over three days we had followed a male lion, seen a massive elephant taking a long bath, watched as a cheetah looked majestically at us and enjoyed a tower of giraffe grazing at sunrise. In fact as great as all of these individual experiences were, it is not just these that made our three nights in Amakhala magical. The beauty was in the whole experience. The magnificent tent you sleep in and the noise from the animals outside, the wonder in seeing a giant African land snail or a female warthog staring at you as it protects it’s baby.

A few days in Amakhala was like being transcended to another world, we completely switched off from everyday life. We have been on many family holidays where typically I sunbathe and spend too much time on my phone, the kids go to to the swimming pool and Cormac, my husband, finds an umbrella to hide under and read his book. We spent our few days in Amakhala together, equally enjoying the same activities. There were no TV’s, no time for trawling through social media pages, no large swimming pool to lay beside. It was every bit as magical as we could have wished for and it has convinced me to bring the kids on more adventurous holidays in the future. Namibia watch out………

Check prices here
 

Planning a trip to South Africa? Check out my video from our stay at Amakhala and all my posts from our South Africa adventures below.

Top Tips For Visiting South Africa

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

 

 

Travel

September Sale, Top 10 Holidays from €369 Including Flights, Accommodation, Transfers & Baggage!

Zante

Jet off to the sun this September from only €369 in the TUI September holiday sale. All prices include flights, accommodation transfers and checked baggage!

 

*** USE PROMOCODE SEPT100 AND SAVE €100 OFF ALL TUI HOLIDAYS IN SEPTEMBER. MINIMUM TOTAL SPEND €1000  ***

 

With the fabulous Summer weather we have been having, September is the ideal month to book a week away. The evenings start to get darker, kids are going back to school and before you know it, ’90 days until Christmas’ posts start to appear in your Facebook feed! I have teamed up with TUI, who have just launched a September holiday sale! Whether you want self-catering in Greece, an All Inclusive holiday in Lanzarote or a relaxing break in the Majorca, I have something here to suit everyone. All holidays are hand-picked, have great reviews on tripadvisor and are exceptional value. Another added bonus is that there are no hidden extras. All TUI holidays include flights, accommodation, transfers and checked baggage. I have priced these holidays based on two adults sharing for seven nights, but you can change dates, durations, or number of people travelling, by selecting ‘EDIT SEARCH’, once you click on the links below. In most cases, prices will be even lower if more people travel together! And if you still need convincing, TUI also have a promotion on at the moment whereby if you spend over €1000 you can save €100 off the price, just use promocode SEPT100 when booking – note the prices below include this reduction.

 

1. Puerto Rico, Terraza Mar Suites, 13th September, €465

september holiday sale

Originally a small fishing village, Puerto has been transformed into a lively holiday resort which offers all you need for a fun filled holiday. Purpose built, Puerto Rico is set into the hillside so sea-views are a given! There is a stylish marina, a sandy beach, two shopping centres and a wide choice of bars and restaurants. The Terraza Mar Suites are one of the most sought after apartments in the resort and are rated very highly on tripadvisor. Centrally located, they are only 300 meters from the shopping centre and approximately 12 minutes walk to the beach. On site there is an outdoor swimming pool, pool bar, restaurant, tennis courts and a children’s play area. The apartments are very well equipped inside too, with satellite TV’s and sun loungers on the balcony or terrace. *TOPTIP: Add on extra legroom seats for €20 per person and receive €100 off the price as the total value will now be over €1000. This will make the new total only €465 per person including extra leg room seats on the plane 😉

Click here for more details:

 

2. Majorca, Alcudia, Mariners Club Apartments, 14th September, €369

september holiday sale

Located in the popular resort of Alcudia you have the option of enjoying the magnificent 14km beach, exploring the historic old town or enjoying the lively bars in the bustling new town. Located in a quiet area yet only a ten minute walk to bars and restaurants, the Mariners Club offers the best of both worlds. Apartments are bright and spacious and are highly rated on tripadvisor. You can choose to spend your days relaxing by the large swimming pool or stroll to Alcudia’s sandy beach, located about 15 minutes away.

Click here for more details:

 

3. Salou, La Pineda, 4* Golden Donaire Beach, Half Board, 21st September, €483

September holiday sale

Located on a wide golden sandy beach, close to the town centre and only a few minutes drive from PortAventura theme park, it is no wonder this hotel is so highly rated on tripadvisor. There is plenty going on here with day and evening entertainment, sports activities and regular live music. If you like to get out and explore the surrounding area, then this is the perfect choice, with Barcelona, Tarragona and Montserrat all close by and easy day trip options.

 

Click here for more details:

 

4. Ibiza, Apartmentos del Rey, 27th September, €377

September holiday sale

Quietly situated close to the laid back town of Portinatx, this is the ideal spot if you want to discover the island of Ibiza without the distraction of lively bars and discos. Relax by the pool and enjoy seaviews or stroll down and spend the day on one of Portinatx’s three beaches. There are plenty of nice bars and restaurants in Portinatx, which has a chilled out vibe, or get out and about and explore the rest of the island. This popular complex is excellent value and rated highly on tripadvisor.

 

Click here for more details:

 

5. Zakynthos, Katerina Palace Hotel, B&B, 18th September, €490

September holiday sale

I spent a week in Zakynthos a few years ago and loved it. There is so much to see and do you will spoilt for choice. A visit to Navagio or ‘Shipwreck Beach’ is a must, it is one of the most photographed beaches in the world! For me though, the beauty lies in just chilling out on Zante’s beaches and enjoying some tasty Greek food in local tavernas. The popular Katarina Palace Hotel is  situated in the popular resort of Argassi, which is ideal choice for a relaxing break away. Highly rated on tripadvisor, they have a  swimming pool on site and are located beside the beach and resort centre.

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6. Corfu, Loulas Village apartments, 21st September €496

September holiday sale

Rated number 1 on tripadvisor, the Loulas Village has been receiving Irish holidaymakers for many years. Kostos will be sure to give you a warm welcome and make you enjoy this laid back, family run apartment complex. Ideally located with some excellent restaurants and bars close by, this is a the perfect property to experience some traditional Greek charm.

Click here for more details:

 

7. Ibiza, All Inclusive, Sirenis Cala Longa Resort, 27th September, €595

september holiday sale

This resort has everything you could possibly wish for and then some! Peacefully located next to a wide sandy beach, with all meals and drinks included, you may well find it hard to leave! Facilities on site include sports and activity programmes with daily entertainment, including evening shows every night. There are three swimming pools to choose from including an adult only pool, and all have seaviews. Choose to relax in the sauna or whirl pool bath or get active on the open-air balcony with cardio machines. The buffet restaurant has live cooking stations with a mix of international dishes as well as local favourites, and there are five bars, three of which serve snacks during the day.  This hotel is highly rated on tripadvisor and with all meals and drinks included it is excellent value for a week away in the beautiful island of Ibiza.

 

Click here for more details:

 

8. Algarve, Oceanus, 30th September, €390

september holiday sale

Located in the quiet village of Olhos d’Agua, the Oceanus apartments are in the heart of the resort, with restaurants and close by and the beach only a five minute walk away. They are also very close to Albufeira and Vilamoura if you fancy a change of scene. The apartments are spacious and well equipped with air-conditioning and a flatscreen satellite TV. Highly rated on tripadvisor and awarded a certificate of excellence, these are a great choice for a holiday in the Algarve.

Click here for more details:

 

9. Majorca, All Inclusive, Haiti Hotel, 26th September €462*

september holiday sale

The Haiti hotel is ideally located in the laid back resort of Ca’n Picafort. There are plenty of sports activities on site as well as a nightly entertainment programme. With all meals and drinks included in the price, you may decide to spend most of your time in the hotel!  If however, you choose to go out, the town centre and beach are only a ten-minute walk away. If you don’t fancy the walk, the mini-train stops right outside the hotel, which takes you to the resort centre. Highly rated on tripadvisor, this is another great value All Inclusive holiday. *TOPTIP: Add on extra legroom seats for €20 per person and receive €100 off the price as the total value will now be over €1000. This will make the new total only €462 per person including extra leg room seats on the plane 😉

Click here for more details:

 

10. Lanzarote, All Inclusive Morromar Apartments, 20th September, €533

september holiday sale

Lanzarote is always a popular choice with Irish holidaymakers. Located in Matagorda and just a ten-minute walk from the beach, the Morromar apartments offer the best of both worlds by being peacefully located, but also close to the busy resort of Puerto del Carmen, should you fancy a livelier scene. Although this deal includes all meals and drinks, you have the added advantage of staying in a spacious apartment, equipped with a kitchenette and a separate living room. There are two swimming pools surrounded by tropical gardens and there is a wide selection of sports activities, as well as a day and evening entertainment programme, on site.

Click here for more details:

 

I hope that you have found something to tempt you in TUI’s September holiday sale. However, if the above options don’t suit or you need to change dates, durations, or the number of people travelling, just click on ‘EDIT SEARCH’ on the TUI website and change your requirements there.

All prices are correct at the date of issue, 20th July, but are subject to change. This post was sponsored by TUI but all views, as always, are my own. Note the links above are affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made.

 

Sarah

travel deals

 

 

Travel

Early Booking Caribbean Cruise Deal, May 2019, Direct Flights, 2 Nights Miami & 7 Night Cruise in Balcony Cabin, €1499!

MSC_seaside

With over-night stays in Miami before and after your cruise, a FREE upgrade to a balcony stateroom and the advantage of direct Aer Lingus flights, this early booking Caribbean cruise deal is one of the best I have seen!

 

I have teamed up with Sunway Holidays who are agents for all cruise lines and have many exclusive offers, unavailable elsewhere. Their cruise experts have experienced many cruise ships first hand. They will be able to answer any queries you have, and recommend the right ship and cabin choice, to suit your requirements. Whether you seek a family cruise in the Mediterranean, a romantic cruise around the Caribbean, or a cruise and stay holiday in Alaska, Sunway have a cruise to suit everyone.

Caribbean cruise deal

This Caribbean cruise deal includes a seven-night cruise on MSC Seaside, a new, state-of-the-art cruise ship that was designed to ‘follow the sun’. MSC Seaside has more outdoor space than any other cruise ship in the world – perfect for those Caribbean sea views!  I was on it’s sister ship MSC Seaview this year and loved it. It is modern, elegant and sophisticated, with a host of different dining and entertainment options. It reminded me of a super yacht rather than a cruise ship and the Sunset pool at the back of the ship even has a South Beach Miami feel. You can read my full review of MSC Seaview here.

Caribbean cruise deal

Your cruise holiday begins with direct Aer Lingus flights to Miami, where you will spend a night before and after your cruise. Socialise, shop and swim on South Beach and discover a taste of Cuba in Little Havana – there is so much to do in Miami you will be spoilt for choice! After you set sail, your first stop is Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, where you will enjoy an over-night stay. Stroll through the historic old town, explore the tropical rainforest or simply relax on one of it’s stunning Caribbean beaches. Your next stop is the Caribbean island of St Thomas, where you can enjoy snorkelling with it’s resident turtles.

caribbean cruise deal

Day five brings you to St Maarten where you simply have to visit Maho beach! Made famous for it’s airplane landings, Instagrammers will be in heaven! You will then enjoy a day at sea before arriving in the Bahamas for your last stop. Visit Atlantis, the world’s largest open-air marine habitat, home to Aquaventure, a 141-acre water park! Swim with dolphins, chill out on the beach, the choice is yours. Your holiday ends with a return Miami for an over-night stay, before flying home directly to Dublin the following day.

Caribbean cruise deal

The facilities on board MSC Seaside are superb. There is non-stop entertainment day and night, a choice of 20 different bars and lounges, 9 eateries, a state-of-the-art spa and gym, as well as one of the largest and most interactive aquaparks at sea. You will also have the pleasure of admiring the Caribbean’s stunning seaviews from your own private balcony stateroom – which is included in this amazing offer! While this Caribbean cruise itinerary is no doubt one of the best, you may struggle to leave this amazing ship…

Fly from Dublin to Miami on the 9th of May and enjoy this amazing nine-night holiday for only €1499! This includes direct Aer Lingus flights to Miami, over-night stays in Miami, pre and post cruise, a seven-night cruise on a full board basis, with an upgrade to a balcony stateroom! Still need convincing? The deposit is only €250 to secure a booking….

Call one of Sunway’s expert cruise team on 01 2311868 or click here for more details:

 

Note this is just one of the many cruises that Sunway offer. If the above date or itinerary doesn’t suit you, contact one of their expert cruise staff and they will find a suitable cruise for you. This post was sponsored by Sunway, but all views, as always, are my own.

 

Interested in cruising, for cruise news, reviews and the best cruise deals, click here.

 

Sarah

 

travel deals

 

AmericaDestinationsLong Haul

3 American Tours You Need To Take – Prices from €1,799 Including Flights.

bryce-2602307_1280

Take advantage of the wide variety of direct flights to the USA and experience some of America’s iconic cities and breathtaking National Parks. Enjoy the security of a group tour with the freedom to explore on your own. Here are three American tours you need to take!

 

I have teamed up with American Sky who offer a wide selection of escorted tours, self drive itineraries and city breaks to America and Canada. I have chosen three iconic tours, that take in the some of America and Canada’s most remarkable cities, towns and National Parks. What I love about these tours is that you have free time to explore at your own pace. You can dine out where you like, when you like and add on nights at the start or end of the tour. However if you fancy a trip to Chicago instead of California or New Mexico instead of New York, American Sky can tailor make any itinerary to suit you. For a limited time, they are also offering ‘early booking’ savings of €100- €120 per person off many of their 2019 holidays!

american tours

 

Southern Explorer, New York to Miami, 12 nights 2018 & 13 Nights 2019, from €2,049 pp including flights.

american tours

This amazing tour combines America’s most iconic cities with the music and culture capitals of Virginia, Nashville, New Orleans and Memphis. Visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, marvel at the great monuments in Washington DC and hang out in South Beach, Miami. Music fans will loving checking out America’s music capital, Nashville, before ‘walking in Memphis’ and getting the opportunity to visit Graceland. This tour also includes a two-night stay in the food and festival city of New Orleans and a journey through the blue ridge mountains of Virginia. Your final destination is Florida where you will overnight in Orlando and visit the Kennedy Space Centre.

Price from €2,049 pp includes flights, hotels, internal travel by coach, city tours of Washington, Memphis and Bellingrath Home, admission to the Kennedy Space Centre and tour guide throughout.

  Click here for more details:

 

Eastern Discovery, USA & Canada, 9 nights 2018 & 10 nights 2019 from €1,799 pp including flights.

american tours

New York, Niagara Falls, Washington and Quebec are just some of the highlights on this best of Eastern USA and Canada tour. Visit the 9/11 museum in New York, walk the Freedom Trail in Boston, marvel at the monuments in Washington and check out the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia – and that’s before you visit Canada! On the journey to Canada you will pass through pretty villages in Vermont and New Hampshire and on the return you can see the traditions of the Amish people and how they manage to live without electricity, in the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside. Niagara Falls is sure to take your breath away as will the old town of Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you need any more convincing, this tour also includes visits to Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and the Gettysburg site.

Price from €1,799 pp includes flights, hotels, internal travel by coach, city tours of Washington, Philadelphia, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, walking tour of Boston and Old Quebec, visit to the Gettysburg site, admission to the Amish Museum and tour guide throughout.

Click here for more details:

 

Western Discovery, California Coast with Las Vegas, Canyons and National Parks, 14 nights from €2,359 pp including flights.

american tours

Many people travel the California Coast but don’t travel inland to see Arizona and the National Parks. I am guilty of this as I visited California a few years ago and didn’t venture off the Pacific Coast Highway. This tour manages to combine both and really is the ‘Best of the West’! It combines the iconic cities of LA, Las Vegas and San Francisco with America’s most famous National Parks. To see the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, Lake Powell, Death Valley and Yosemite National Park in one trip would be a dream come true for me! But it’s not all about the National Parks. You will enjoy a two-night stay in San Francisco where you can visit Alcatraz or bike the Golden Gate Bridge, which was one of my favourite things that I did in San Francisco, (additional charge applies). You will also spend two nights in Las Vegas and end your tour in Los Angeles, where you will enjoy a tour of Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

american tours

It is possible to add on many extras with this tour, including a breakfast plus package (€264) which includes 14 breakfasts, 1 all you can eat buffet in Las Vegas and a gondola ride (summer) or San Francisco Bay Cruise (winter). Why not scratch a few experiences off the bucket list and book a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon ($199) take in dinner and show in Vegas ($95) or enjoy a Sonoma and Napa Valley wine tour from San Francisco ($85). Fancy some beach time at the end? Why not add on a few nights in San Diego or better still add on four nights in the iconic Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, from €799 per person including flights!

 

Price from €2359 pp includes flights, hotels, internal travel by coach, city tours of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego; walk along the edge of Bryce Canyon National Park, drive through Oak Creek Canyon, Navajo Indian Reservation & visit Monument Valley, optional sunrise breakfast at the rim of the Grand Canyon, escorted walk to Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, visits to Death Valley, Carmel, Monterey, and Santa Barbara. Tour guide throughout.

Click here for more details:

 

american tours
I have only listed three American tours above but there are many more on the American Sky website. Click here for more tours or call one of their dedicated sales consultants on 01-6649900 for more details. This post was sponsored by American Sky but all views, as always, are my own.

 

Like long haul travel ? See more here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

Travel Tips

6 Ways To Spend Avios

city break

Flights, upgrades, hotels, car hire and travel experiences, there are many ways to spend Avios, find out how in this post.

 

I have been collecting Avios for 18 months and have now accumulated over 50,000 Avios. Initially I wanted to use my Avios to upgrade my upcoming flight to New York to business class (37,000 Avios), but as I was travelling with my husband and two kids, I thought it might be unfair to leave them in economy! Needless to say I still have my Avios and want to spend them! I was delighted to hear that I can now use my Avios to purchase hotel stays, car hire and experiences. For anyone who is not familiar with Avios, read my blog post about how to get flights and upgrades with Avios points. For the rest of you, check out five ways to spend Avios below and get spending!
 

 

 

1. Use Avios to book flights:

You can use your Avios to book flights with Aer Lingus, British Airways or Iberia. There are so many variations, depending on when and where you travel, but 8,000 Avios points will get you a return flight to Paris with Aer Lingus. For 17,000 Avios you can have a return flight to the Canary Islands and if you can save 26,000 you can have a return flight to New York. Note these are based on off peak travel and exclude taxes and charges. 

Click here for more details

ways to spend avios
 

 

 

2. Use Avios to book hotels

Avios can now be used to book over 100,000 hotels worldwide, from boutique independent hotels to major chains.

Click here for more details:

ways to spend avios
 

 

 

3. Use Avios to book car hire

Use Avios to pay for car hire from international airports around the world. 

Click here for more details:

ways to spend avios
 

 

 

4. Use Avios for travel experiences and activities

Have you always wanted to try a hot air ballon ride but couldn’t justify the price? Fancy going whale watching in South Africa or taking a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon? Avios have over 50,000 unforgettable experiences worldwide for you to enjoy.

Click here for more details:

ways to spend avios

 

 

 

5. Use Avios to upgrade your flight

Travel in style and use your Avios to upgrade your ticket from economy class to business class. Enjoy a fully lie-flat seat and luxury dining and arrive at your destination refreshed.  The amount of Avios required to upgrade your existing booking varies by route and date of travel. Currently a one-way upgrade from Dublin to New York, Washington or Toronto  with Aer Lingus is 37,000 Avios while Los Angeles, Miami or Seattle is 46,250 Avios.

Click here for more details:

ways to spend avios
 

 

 

6. Use Avios to part pay for Aer Lingus flights

This new initiative from AerClub is a game changer!  It doesn’t matter if you have only accumulated a few hundred Avios, you can still use them to pay for Aer Lingus flights. In one simple transaction you can use your Avios to pay for flights online or via the Aer Lingus app. Your discount options will depend on your Avios balance and the total cost of your journey. You can use Avios to discount your entire basket price when booking, including flights, baggage, lounge passes, seats & meals.

Click here for more details:

 

 

 

 

How to join Avios?

If you are already an AerClub member, your existing log in and password will suffice. 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.
 

 

 
Avios are issued and redeemed in accordance with Avios Terms and Conditions, for more information visit www.avios.com . This post was sponsored by Avios, but all views, as always, are my own.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

 

Cruises

Superstars, Slides & Speciality Dining – My Review of MSC Seaview

MSC Seaview

I was delighted to get invited to the christening of the brand new MSC Seaview in Genoa.  In two days I managed to dine in six restaurants, slide down a 367-foot water slide, swim, dance and even shoot a few zombies! Check out my review of MSC Seaview.

 

MSC are renowned for their lavish christenings and this one was no exception. Hollywood legend Sophia Loren, the Godmother of all MSC ships, was there to cut the ribbon and listening to Andrea Boceilli’s son Mateo sing, was a personal highlight for me. There were fireworks and an exclusive after party – all in true Italian style! To be honest, none of this really surprised me, what did, was the cruise ship….

review of msc seaview

I had pre-conceived ideas about MSC Cruise ships. I was on board MSC Splendida in Dublin port a few years ago, and expected MSC Seaview to be an upgraded, modern version of Splendida. I was wrong. In fact with the exception of the Swarovski staircases, I saw very little similarity between the two cruise ships.

MSC Seaview is extremely modern. She is bright, airy, elegant, sophisticated, I could go on and on. Live music bellowed from the atrium as we boarded. This four-storey dazzling masterpiece is the focal point of the ship. The Seaview bar is strategically placed at the bottom. This transforms from a morning café to a the perfect bar for an aperitif, and later to a dance floor when the late night entertainment kicks in.

There is live music and entertainment in the atrium throughout the day, with a variety of bars on each deck. We went here on the first night and it was like being at a great concert, the atmosphere was electric with people singing and dancing on all decks overlooking the stage.

review of msc seaview

MSC Seaview has 20 different bars and lounges, each one offering something a little special. We hung out in the Champagne bar (as you do!). It serves a wide variety of bubbles to suit all tastes and if you pre-purchase the drinks package before you sail (€26 per day), you can enjoy prosecco here free of charge. Gin lovers will love the Platinum bar in the casino, where you can create the perfect Bombay Sapphire Gin & Tonic, by infusing it with floral, spicy or citrus aromas.

The sports bar is not your average sports bar either. There is sports memorabilia on the walls and massive TV screens playing a variety of sports, but the bar itself is classy. There are private booths with individual TV screens for private enjoyment, as well as football shaped bean bags for a relaxed homely atmosphere. It’s the type of bar than non-sports fans could go to and have a drink, while their partners watched the match.

Not all bars are indoors. There are plenty of outdoor bars serving up cocktails or whatever takes your fancy. I loved the Sunset bar at the back of the ship which conveniently plays music after dark. We enjoyed cocktails al fresco and danced until the small hours. It felt like I was on a super-yacht in Miami rather than a cruise-ship in Genoa!

review of msc seaview

 

Food glorious food on MSC Seaview

During my time as a travel agent I heard people complain about the variety of food on MSC cruises. To say MSC have upped their game is an understatement. The main buffet restaurant, called ‘Marketplace’ has a variety of options including its own pizzeria, offering delicious pizza slices. I also had tasty Nasi Goreng as well as breaded chicken fillets (I ate here twice!) and unlike many buffet restaurants, everything was hot!

I am not normally a big buffet fan, I hate the constant banging of plates and the hustle for seats. What I loved about this buffet is that it is surrounded on three sides by outdoor seating areas, which changes the whole buffet dining experience. I would happily dine there every day for lunch. They also have a small buffet restaurant close to the pool on deck 15 which has child accessible counters.

review of msc seaview

We ate in the main dining room at night-time. With the exception of one bland starter, the food was of a very high quality. I had a delicious crab and lobster starter plate, a beef fillet that was perfectly cooked and a warm chocolate molten cake that literally melted in my mouth. I asked our server if this was typical of the dinner that guests could expect on board and I was told that it was a ‘special menu’ which would be typical of a gala night. So while fillet steak may not be on the menu every night, I would like to think that the standard and quality of the food would be the same.


I was lucky to be able to sample some of the specialty dining options too. Ocean Cay, by Spanish Michelin Star chef Ramón Freixa, served up mouthwatering seafood, while the Asian Market Kitchen has three different dining experiences in one restaurant. I loved this restaurant and I think I would end up eating here a few times if I was on a typical seven-night cruise. Celebrity chef Riy Yamaguchi partnered with MSC to bring an à la carte Asian restaurant, a modern teppanyaki grill where chefs perform and cook in front of you, and last but not least, a Sushi bar. I tried all three – purely for research purposes! There is also a trendy steakhouse, the Butchers Cut, for those looking for American cuisine.

review of msc seaview

The only way to follow this was to try the chocolate tasting in Venchi bar! This famous Italian chocolate maker has been making chocolate since 1878. A salted caramel gelato and some chocolate truffles later and I had reached my limit! I was genuinely amazed by the variety and quality of the food available on this ship. Note there are additional charges for the six speciality dining restaurants, but they are a fraction of what you would pay in a similar restaurant in a city.

review of msc seaview

One of the most innovative things about MSC Seaview is the amount of outdoor space. There is more outdoor space per guest than any other cruise ship in the world, 3.2 square meters per guest to be precise. To use MSC’s own words, the ship is designed to ‘follow the sun’. The Waterfront boardwalk wraps all around the ship and is the widest seen on any ship. The ‘Bridge of Sighs’ is a see-through walkway at the back of the ship where you can see the Sunset pool 40 meters below. There are other glass-floored catwalks, that make you feel like you are walking on water and panoramic glass lifts to maximise seaviews.

Kids facilities on MSC Seaview

The facilities for kids on board are superb. There is a separate kids Forest Adventure Aquapark with slides and rope bridges as well as faster slides for older kids, or adults, depending on your mood. There are two racer slides with clear loops that extend out over the ship and a 367-foot water slide with lights and music that you slide down with a mat. I tried this and screamed the whole way down, but I loved it!

If all this isn’t enough you can race your mates on the dual ziplines – they are the longest at sea, test your skills on the Formula 1 simulator or kill some zombies in the 4D interactive cinema. We tried this and it was hilarious! It reminded me of a simulator ride in Universal Studios rather than an interactive cinema. Six of us sat in a car simulator with 3D glasses and watched as hundreds of zombies climbed on top of us. The object is to shoot as many zombies as possible, the winner being the person who shot the most. We laughed the whole way through, it was hilarious! However for a more relaxed experience, you can enjoy a game of bowling or watch a movie in the outdoor cinema.

review of msc seaview

MSC is a family owned company and they pride themselves on offering superb children’s facilities. It is not only the modern activities that kids will love, their kids clubs are excellent too. MSC have partnered with LEGO and offer two LEGO rooms, one for ages 3-6 and another from age 7-11. Toddlers will love the baby club which has the latest Chicco equipment.

Teenagers have their very own teen club. Expect sports tournaments, dance contests, social network games, flashmobs discos and parties. Teens can have their own cruise card, where you can set the limits and control their daily spend – this is available from age 7 – 17. I love that you can always know where your kids are by locating them on the MSC for Me wristbands. This technology enables parents and staff to monitor their children at all times on the ship, so you can take a trip to the spa and not have to worry about their location.

review of msc seaview

I was really impressed with MSC Seaview. She ‘had me at hello’, when at first glance she reminded me of a super yacht rather than a massive cruise ship. And when I got to my stateroom and saw the pillow menu and a high speed hairdryer – I was sold!  The attention to detail is evident throughout the ship, the classy bars, choice of dining options, the kids facilities, it even boasts the most state-of-the-art gym and the largest spa at sea! MSC really has pushed the boat out with MSC Seaview.

review of msc seaview
MSC Aurea Spa

 

Things to watch out for.

Like all cruise ships, there can be extra charges. Drinks, speciality dining options, simulators, bowling, WiFi and spa treatments all incur additional charges. Check with your travel agent when booking and try to pre-book as many packages as possible to maximise value.

MSC Seaview cruises the Mediterranean during the Summer of 2018 and will move to Brazil for the winter before returning to the Mediterranean for Summer 2019. See msccruises.ie for more details or your local travel agent.

 

Like cruise holidays? See more cruise reviews and cruise deals here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert

Travel

Christmas Market Break in Vienna, Flights & 4 Star Hotel, 3 Nights, €358!

Vienna Shutterstock

Oh Vienna………. Is there a better city to enjoy a Christmas market break? I doubt it!  With the introduction of direct flights via the Ryanair website, a Christmas market break in Vienna is more affordable than ever!

 

Christmas markets in Vienna have been a tradition since 1298. Would you believe there are over 20 different markets in Vienna! Vienna’s pretty squares are transformed into Christmas markets and international choir singers perform free of charge.  Aromas of mulled wine and hot cinnamon pastries fill the air, which adds to the magical Christmas atmosphere. The Viennese Christmas Market in front of the City Hall , “Vienna Magic of Advent” is the most popular, where the square resembles a fairytale land. and even offers a specific children’s area, where they can learn how to make Christmas cookies and decorations and enjoy a carousel ride. Market sellers have an array of local products, Christmas decorations and tasty dishes. Another market you can’t miss is  is the Christmas market in front of Schönbrunn Palace which is converted into a New Year’s market after Christmas. Vienna’s markets start a little earlier than most and run from the 17th of November so if you want to travel a little earlier, just edit the search in the links below.

christmas market break in Vienna

You will be staying at the 4* Hotel Schani Wien which is highly rated on tripadvisor and was awarded a certificate of excellence. Opened in 2015, this modern hotel is only 100 meters from the main train station and there is a tram stop right outside the door to bring you to City Hall and all the Christmas markets.  There is free WiFi available throughout the hotel and there is a bar on-site where you can relax after a day at the markets. If you fancy heading into the city centre, it is only minutes away by tram.

Christmas market break in Vienna

Fly from Dublin to Vienna on Friday the 7th of December and enjoy a three night stay at the 4* Hotel Schani Wien hotel for only €358! This is great value to see one of Europe’s most beautiful cities at Christmas time.

 

Click here to book flights: €129 per person

Click here to book hotel: €229 per person

 

Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. Please note some of my best travel deals include affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made.

 

Sarah

 

travel deals

 

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