travel

Best Travel Deals

3rd September, One week package deal to Fuerteventura, only €334!

Fuerteventura, is blessed with year round sunshine, stunning beaches and a great laid back atmosphere. Enjoy a one week package deal to Fuerteventura for only €334 in September, and finish off the Summer in style!

 

It is less developed than the other Canary Islands but that is part of it’s charm. If you are a beach lover you will love Fuerteventura. You will find picture postcard white sandy beaches here – some would say as good as the Caribbean! Watching the wind surfers and kite boarders and pottering around the many surf shops you can’t help but notice that it has a sporty feel to it. For more information on Fuerteventura you can read my blog post by clicking here.

One week package deal to Fuerteventura

I found a fantastic deal departing on the 3rd of September from Dublin staying in the popular Villa Florida apartments. They have been a firm favourite with Irish holiday makers for many years. They are centrally located in the resort of Caleta de Fuste, close to plenty of bars and restaurants and only 200 meters from the sandy beach. They also receive great reviews on tripadvisor!

VIlla FLorida 2

Fly direct from Dublin on Saturday the 3rd of September and enjoy seven nights in a spacious one bedroom apartment for only €334 per person, based on two sharing. This price includes flights, accommodation, transfers and checked baggage, with NO hidden extras!

 

Click here for more details:

 

Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. This post was sponsored by Sunway Holidays but all views, as always, are my own 🙂

 

Sarah

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Magical Madrid, 14th February, Flights & Hotel, 3 Nights €199!

Terrazas de la Plaza Mayor de Madrid

The Spanish capital of Madrid is often overlooked for a city break but actually it probably has more to offer than most of it’s European counterparts.

 

Take a guided tour of the Royal Palace, probably one of the largest and most beautiful palaces you are likely to see. Enjoy a coffee on the Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s main square, it is a great place to people watch and plan your day. Follow that with a night out in the city, when Madrid comes alive with gastro bars, al fresco eateries and vibrant nightlife. With over three thousand restaurants, it is not surprising that Madrid is now considered one of Europe’s top cities for gastronomy.

There is plenty in  Madrid to keep everyone happy, some may like to shop while the others take in a football match or a stadium visit. A trip to the Real Madrid’s Bernabeu would satisfy even an avid football fan. A stroll along the Gran Via, Madrid’s grandest street is a shoppers paradise, where high street and designer shops combine to tempt you with prices cheaper than at home. A new apple store opened in 2014 with a 360 degrees genius bar, where experts from ‘Apple’ give advice and solve any technical issues, its known as a ‘little apple museum’, worth a look in the area of Puerta del Sol!

Bernabeu, The Travel Expert, Sarah Slattery

So with all of this and a lot more, isn’t it time you visited the city of Madrid? I have found a great deal departing on the 14th of February. Fly with Aer Lingus and stay three nights in the popular HRC hotel for only €199. This modern hotel is situated in the heart of Madrid, close to all the main attractions and it’s excellent nightlife. The HRC also receives excellent reviews on tripadvisor as well as a certificate of excellence.  So what are you waiting for?

 

Click here for more details:

 

Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change.

 

Sarah 

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Family HolidaysTravel Tips

Top 5 travel tips when booking your family holiday.

The Travel Expert (3)

With the January sales upon us, here are my top five tips to help you book the perfect family holiday.

 

1. Be prepared!

I can’t stress this enough. Talk to a travel agent or at least do some research yourself online. If it is sunshine you are after make sure you check the weather forecast. For instance the Algarve maybe cold at Christmas time and most Greek resorts don’t actually open until May…

 

2. Check out the flight times and the length of the flight.

You might see that the flights are ‘day flights’ but this may mean a 6am departure which is actually a 4am check in, which equates to a 3am alarm call – not exactly day time! Likewise you may think that short flights are great but if travelling to Alcudia in Majorca or Lagos in the Algarve the bus transfer time is almost two hours, so the actual journey time will be the same as travelling to Lanzarote for example.

 

3. Think about what type of holiday you are looking for.

Do you want a quiet break in a nice resort or a family resort with kids clubs and entertainment? They are two very different choices! You also need to think about whether you want an all inclusive holiday where all food and drink is included or whether you like eating out in the local restaurants.

 

4. Book at the right time.

Generally speaking if you have kids in school it’s safer to book early to secure the right holiday at the best price. Larger apartments in peak season can be booked out early and if you have specific requirements like a beachfront location or creche facilities you will need to book in advance. If on the other hand you have young kids that are not in school yet, take advantage now while you can. Travel in May, June or September and you should be able to secure a great deal.

 

5. Check prices both online and with a Travel Agent.

Usually the Travel Agent will be able to offer you the holiday at the same price or even less. They may also have early booking offers or ten days for the price of seven etc. Your holiday is secure by booking with an Agent as they have to be fully licensed and bonded in order to trade. You will also have the advantage of being able to call them if you have a problem or query, either before you travel or while abroad.

 

Want to see more travel tips? Click here!

 

Sarah

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Family HolidaysTravel Tips

Top 5 reasons to book your holiday early

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With the busy booking period fast approaching for holiday bookings, here are my top five reasons to book your holiday early.

 

1. Travelling during school holidays.

If travelling during peak time, i.e when the kids are off school, the earlier you book the better. Special offers are very limited during these periods so usually the earlier you book the better value you receive.

 

2.  Have specific requirements.

Are you looking for something in particular, a 3 bedroom apartment, a good hotel on the beach or one of the top family properties with excellent kids facilities? Then remember these will get booked well in advance so make sure you do the same if you have specific requirements.

 

3. Get the best choice

Take advantage of the choices available. With most airlines on sale eleven months in advance you may find that you can get ten days for the price of seven or better flight times without paying large supplements. Many hotels offer early booking offers too with savings of between 10-20% if booking early.

 

4. Makes budgeting easier.

Use your holiday as a savings plan. When booking just pay an initial deposit and pay the balance off monthly. It will be easier to budget throughout the year and avoids one large payment eight weeks before departure.

 

5. Have something to look forward to.

It’s nice to have your holiday booked in advance and have something to look forward to. It makes it easier to plan other things and takes away the stress of worrying that you might not find a holiday at the last minute.

 

Want to see more travel tips? Click here!

 

Sarah

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DestinationsEuropeSunseekers

Tuscany, Italy

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The contrast of the countrysides rolling hills mixed with the stunning cities of Florence and Pisa make’s Tuscany an irresistible choice for any traveller.

There is so much to see here, the problem is where to start! I have holidayed in Tuscany numerous times in various cities and towns and loved it each and every time. There are regular direct flights from Dublin to Pisa with Ryanair and they won’t break the bank so its probably the most direct route to take. I would recommend getting the Ryanair coach from Pisa airport direct to Florence and spending a few days there first. Florence is Tuscany’s capital city and when walking around it, you get the feeling that it deserves to be! The Tuscan countryside is so beautiful that it would almost be a shame if its capital city didn’t have that certain heir of grandeur. Although the largest city in the region it retains its old world romantic charm. It has one of Italy’s must see Cathedrals or Duomo, the magnificent Basilica di Santa Croce, the famous statue of ‘David’ by Michelangelo and of course one the largest collections of art in the world in the Uffizi Gallery. I would recommend doing an organised city tour to avoid long queues and will enable you to see most of the sights in the shortest time. If you would rather go it alone make sure you at least pre book the Uffizi tickets online, the queues can be over 2 hours long during peak summer months. Florence is not only known for its artistic charm, it’s really quite romantic too. The Ponte Vecchio Bridge, one of the most photographed places in Florence, is lined with vendors, hoping the magic of this city will entice the spellbound tourists to purchase something for their loved one.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert talks about Tuscany

From Florence you can take a train to nearby Siena which is only just over an hour away. In my opinion, this is another ‘must see’ if visiting Tuscany. It is one of my favourite places to visit. The old town centre is pedestrianised and is so easy to navigate. It doesn’t have that big city feel but there are numerous sights to see and it feels almost relaxing, strolling through the streets picking up souvenirs, a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of Florence. Siena has been declared a World Heriage site by UNESCO and after a visit to the Piazza del Campo you will see why. The Palazzo Pubblico or town hall stands magnificently beside the Torre del Magnia. Climb the 400 steps to the top to see the red roof tops of Siena and the surrounding countryside, it is breathtaking. This is also the famous location for the Palio horse race which takes place twice every summer. Ten horses with bare back riders race around Il campo each representing their own district, dressed in various colors, it really is a magnificent sight. For any movie buffs out there you may recall this from a scene in the James Bond’s movie, Quantum of Solace. Like most of the Italian cities and towns, there are loads of typical trattorias and osterias. One of the best lies in the heart of Siena. Unfortunately the secret is out so its usually thronged with locals and tourists but make sure you visit, you won’t be disappointed, Losteria on via de Rossi.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert talks about TuscanyFrom Sienna, get a hired car. There is a fantastic train service to most of the larger towns but to experience the Tuscan countryside properly you really need a car. The freedom you have to stop at small walled towns and villages and sample the local produce, for me is one of Tuscany’s highlights. The Cypress trees, old country cottages and the striking sunflowers means the journey is the destination. Driving the Chianti region, stopping at various towns and sampling the local wines is another highlight. We came across Montepulciano, one of the oldest hill top walled towns while driving one day and to this day it’s one of my favourite spots. Although not exactly undiscovered, it’s not as well known as some of its neighbours so it doesn’t attract as many tourists as the famous San Gimignano just down the road. However, regardless of the large influx of tourists the medieval walled town of San Gimignano is town you just have to visit. The fourteen towers dominate the landscape and give a dramatic feel as you get closer to it. Like most of Tuscany’s towns it is also pedestrianised but although easy to navigate it can be extremely busy in the summer months. I would recommend staying there for a few days or even overnight to get a true feel for the place. Alternatively visit in the late afternoon when the numerous Tour buses have left. Because of the nature of the walled town it gets dark very early and is not the best place to see the Tuscan sunset. Its neighbour on the other hand, Volterra, is the perfect spot. Only a half hour drive from San Gimignano, but its situated perfectly to enjoy a late drink as the locals meet in the open square to discuss the events of the day. You get the feeling you are seeing the true Tuscany here while taking in one of the best sunsets in the world.

Top tips for taking the best holiday photos

You can drive back to Pisa from here as it’s only an hours drive and visit the famous leaning tower before flying home. Pisa however, for me lacks the grandeur of the other Tuscan cities. In fact, if it wasn’t for the Leaning Tower, I think I would probably skip it altogether. The great thing about the Tower and its surrounding buildings is that they are so close to the airport that you can really do a quick visit on your way home. There are four buildings, one of which is an impressive Cathedral but really a few hours is all you need here to tick the box and get the souvenir photo.

 

Sarah

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DestinationsEuropeFamily HolidaysFeaturedSunseekers

Alvor in the Algarve – The Perfect Spot for a Relaxing Break.

Alvor fishing village portugal

Looking for a quiet break with great restaurants and a stunning beach? Alvor in the Algarve ticks every box.

My husband and I went there when I was pregnant on my second child and it was perfect. I stayed in the Pestana Dom Joao villas which were right on the beach. You may see them available cheaply on some accommodation websites but be careful, some villas which have been renovated and are four star, but there are also some that are in need of modernisation. Although the villas are more like apartments, you can’t beat the beachfront location. The sand is literally at the end of the garden, a luxury that is hard to find on a typical package holiday.

alvor portugal fishing village tourist attraction

The garden also comes in handy. You can sunbathe on the loungers if you have a child asleep or the kids can play while you are getting the dinner ready. It’s ideal for young kids who don’t need kids clubs or entertainment and are just happy to be at the beach or kicking ball. There are really dramatic rock formations all along the Alvor coastline. These are not only stunning to look at, but have the added advantage of creating rock pools, a great way to pass the time with young kids too, searching for crabs, small fish or other ‘pirates treasure’!

Alvor, The Travel Expert

Alvor itself is a small fishing village, yet despite the influx of tourists it still retains much of its old world charm. The village has narrow cobbled streets with some fantastic restaurants and some lively bars at excellent prices. Adega Alvor is a great family choice with an extensive menu to suit all tastes. The ‘Alvor’ wine is particularly good too! There are also some stunning restaurants built into the cliffs along the beach. Canico is a particularly good choice, you can access this from the beach itself or through the Prainha Village complex. Canico is more expensive than the local village restaurants and although the food does not necessarily justify higher prices, the setting certainly does. Watching the sun set on the ocean in a dramatic cliff setting is quite special.

 

 

I would recommend car hire if you want to see a little more of the Algarve. The coach transfer from the airport can be two hours depending on the amount of stops but to drive it yourself is just over an hour. I would also recommend a trip to nearby Portimao, the Algarve’s capital to visit the modern marina and local shops. Zoo Marine which is close to the airport is an excellent theme park with dolphin, seal and bird shows. It also has a man made beach with slides and a splash park. The shows are well worth seeing and to be honest were as good as what you would see in Seaworld.

Alvor in Portugal by Sarah Slattery, Irelands top travel expert

The Algarve in general is a great holiday destination with a huge number of resorts to choose from. Alvor is my personal favourite though, it still feels like the ‘real’ Algarve and I hope it stays that way.

Sarah

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Destinations

Orlando – Where to stay

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Before you book your accommodation you need to ask yourself, do you want a hotel or a home, and do you want to rent a car.

If you are going to spend most of your time in Walt Disney World then maybe one of their Hotels or a nice Home in Lake Buena Vista would be most suitable. If on other hand you are visiting most of the other Theme Parks then International Drive is ideal. There are plenty of great value Motels here and  there is a regular bus service (I-Ride) to all of the main attractions and shopping malls, so car hire is not required. There are plenty of  bars, restaurants and lively nightlife, so if you want to be in the hart of the action, then I-Drive is for you.

My favourite theme park is Universal Studios so given the choice I would stay at one of their hotels. They have four hotels of varying standards so they have one to suit every budget. One of the main advantages is that you are allowed to enter the park one hour before opening, fantastic for the Harry Potter Rides. The Cabana Bay Resort is their three star hotel but to be honest its more like a four star. Its 50s retro style gives you the feeling you have walked on to the set of Grease. They have a bowling alley upstairs and a real diner downstairs. In fact I’m told the reason it is not rated four star is that the diner is self service.   I thought it was a great family hotel, really spacious rooms with a kitchenette, which saves on the cost of dining out. There is a large family pool with a lazy river, slides and a jacuzzi, open till late every night, a fab way to relax after a long day at the park.

Tom ten city breaks for families

Depending on your budget, there are also three luxury hotels which, not only allow early access to the park, but where you receive a complimentary express pass ticket. Express pass tickets are fantastic, particularly in high season, the queue should be no more than 15 minutes on any ride.  Note the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is excluded from the express pass.  You  can also buy these passes at the gate but they only sell a limited number and they cost $89!

My personal favourite was the five star Portofino hotel, its such a contrast from the busy Theme Parks. Designed by Steven Spielberg, it is an exact replica of the jet set Italian Resort. Sitting at one of the lake side cafes, sipping a latte, listening to the Tenors singing, you almost forget where you are. The rooms are very spacious and beautifully furnished and the service is what you would expect of a five star hotel. It is suitable for families and couples as there are three swimming pools. You can choose from the lively family pool with slides and waterfalls, the quiet pool, or the fantastic spa. You can also avail of the free water taxi straight to Universal Studios, it’s such a nice touch.

Portofino hotel

If, however, you fancy a livelier setting then the Hard Rock Hotel is for you. However bear in mind, you can’t get away from the music, it’s everywhere, even under water in the swimming pool.  It is also a five star hotel so you can expect the same excellent service but for me it lacked the grandeur of the Portofino.  There is also another choice, Lowes Royal Pacific Resort, another themed hotel, this time like a Pacific Island. I felt it was a little dated and more like a four star but then it less expensive to stay there than the others and the cost of drinks and meals  are reasonable too. It is one of their luxury hotels and you will still receive a complimentary express pass, so this is an excellent choice if you want to keep the costs down.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

DestinationsEuropeFeaturedSunseekers

Benidorm – bold or beautiful?

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For years, I couldn’t understand the appeal. I had to know why Benidorm was the most searched destination from Ireland on Google last year.

I was aware that Benidorm had good nightlife, and of course it is renowned for its low cost of living – but don’t most Spanish resorts have this? I finally got the opportunity to visit this place that had perplexed me so much,  I was invited on a familiarisation trip and I  jumped at the chance to see what Benidorm had to offer.

After a pleasant 2hour 20 minutes flight, we arrived at the Costa Blanca.  I must admit my first impressions were not that great, high rise buildings and English bars everywhere. I found myself wondering why this place was so popular with Irish people? It wasn’t until that night when suddenly it all became apparent. Until then, the only thing I had heard about the nightlife was that it was loud and catered mostly for stag and hen parties! I have visited most Spanish resorts and have experienced nightlife on many levels, but Benidorm has so much more. There are bars, disco bars , karaoke but its the shows that differentiate it from everywhere else. People, young and old, thronged to see amazing tribute acts, Take That, Westlife, Queen, U2,  unique comedy acts, and everyone was fantastic!

benidorm sarah slattery the travel expert

We found ourselves wondering “why are some these acts not winning  X Factor”! When it comes to nightlife, Benidorm is king, there is nowhere better – it has it all.  It was like being in the West End but everyone walks around in shorts and teeshirts and all the shows are free! The cost of living has to be lower than other Spanish resorts, 6 bottles of beer for €5, or €1 for a pint – hard to beat that anywhere!

Now that I had warmed to the nightlife, I tried to feel the same way about the resort itself. I  was pleasantly surprised when visiting hotels that most rooms had sea views.  In the 1950s, the mayor of Benidorm decided he wanted hoteliers to build upwards so everyone could get a beautiful sea view.  With these high rise buildings everything is in close proximity and Benidorm can cope adequately with 500,000 tourists at any time.

Benidorm has five stunning beaches, stretching over four miles. You can choose Levante Beach which is close to the lively centre and tends to be extremely busy, or the quieter Poniente Beach which has a newly built promenade, great for an evening stroll. In between both you have the old town of Benidorm. It is packed with shops, tapas bars and oozes character. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch with sea views right in the heart of the old town, it was perfect.

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Not only did I have a new found respect for Benidorm as a destination, but I realised that it has so much more to offer than nightlife and beaches. What other resort can offer five theme parks within a ten minute taxi ride from the centre? There is Aqualandia, the largest aqua park in Spain with one of the tallest slides in the world! There is Mundomar, a park with dolphin and seal shows and of course Terra Mitica, if rollercoasters are your thing then you can’t afford to miss it! Lets not forget all of the possibilities for day trips, there is the stunning Villajoyosa with its colourful buildings and the city of Alicante which really surprised me. The castle of Santa Barbara is well worth a visit, with lifts that go all the way to the top, the views are stunning! The palm tree lined promenade stretches the length of the City. Alicante has beautiful old  buildings and an affluent marina, it stuck me that not only is it a nice day trip from Benidorm, it also is a great option for a city break.

benidorm sarah slattery the travel expert

I know finally understood the whole Benidorm phenomenon  and why seven years later, the TV series is still such a huge success. Benidorm has sun most of the year, stunning beaches, a variety of Hotels, fantastic nightlife, an old town full of character. Benidorm has something for everyone and it is a destination everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime!

Sarah

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Family HolidaysTravel Tips

8 Airport Tips You Need To Know Before You Fly

dublin airport

For some people who are not used to travelling the airport can be very stressful. Read my top airport tips below and get your holiday off to a great start.

  1. Weigh your luggage before you go!
  2. Passports, visa and all the important stuff.
  3. Check terminals, car parking, roadworks.
  4. Get to the airport early.
  5. Use the fast track.
  6. Check-in.
  7. Security screening.
  8. Before you board.

1. Weigh your luggage before you go!

Before you go you should make sure you weigh your luggage to ensure you are within the weight limits for the particular airline you are travelling with. You don’t want to be one of those people at the top of the queue taking clothes out of one bag and placing them in another. You will also want to avoid any excess baggage charges, as not only are these exorbitant, but usually you have to queue up at the ticket desk to pay them and then re queue to check in. This can be very stressful if you are short on time and the security queue is very long.

airport tips

2. Passports, visas and all the important stuff.

Important documents like passports, drivers licence, insurance etc as these have a habit of going missing! I think it goes without saying to make sure that your passports are valid but you will also need to check the regulations of the country that you are travelling to, as some destinations require that your passport is valid for 6 months after your return date. This is becoming more and more common with some European countries applying this rule as well as the USA and many long haul destinations. If travelling to the USA make sure you have your ESTA in place, it is compulsory for everyone travelling to America now. Log on to https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

airport tips

3. Check terminals, car parking, roadworks

You should check with AA road watch to ensure your planned journey is free of road works, sometimes the airport website will also have this mentioned in their news section.  Check which terminal you are departing from. As a general rule, Aer Lingus and long haul flights go from Terminal 2 and most other airlines from Terminal 1 but you need to check your travel documents to be sure. Allow plenty of time if using the airport car parks, especially the long term ones as some of these are 20 minutes from the airport terminal! The DAA airport website is very useful and have many top tips, details of airlines and their terminals,  plus the latest car park deals – €29 for 1 week at the moment.

airport tips

4. Get to the airport early.

There are many new restaurants open in our airports now now including Diep le Shaker, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and the fantastic food market – Marquette. Depending on the time of your flight it might be an idea to go to the airport early, no need to worry about traffic, queues etc and enjoy a nice meal before you depart or enjoy the excellent duty free shops at The Loop!

airport tips

5. Use the Fast Track

If you are short on time or have a particularly early flight – use the fast track!  It’s a fantastic service that caters for a variety of travellers. If you don’t want to queue at security you can pay from €5.95 – €7.99 to use the fast track service. You also get 10% off your shopping at the Loop so if you are buying perfume or expensive make up, it pays for itself ! You can use an executive lounge for up to three hours (regardless of what class of ticket you have) with complimentary drinks, snacks and newspapers for only €25 if booked online or €29 if you pay at the airport.  There are also other genie services where you can book a family care attendant or chaperones if someone is travelling alone and needs help. All of these are available to book on the Dublin Airport Website, www.dublinairport.com.

airport tips

6. Check-in.

Where possible always check-in online before hand. Even if you still need to check in a bag, it usually guarantees you a shorter queue and seats together on the aircraft. If  travelling with Aer Lingus use the dedicated self check-in kiosks to weigh your own bags. If you are travelling within Europe, you should arrive at the airport at least ninety minutes before your flight departs, irrespective of whether you have checked in online or at the airport. If  you are travelling long haul this is should be increased to two hours. If travelling to the USA some airlines require you to go through emigration at Dublin or Shannon airport and therefore check in times can be as early as 3 hours before departure. Remember  you will still need to go through security even if you have checked in online and in busy periods these queues can be long.

airport tips

7. Security screening.

With regard to security, this seems to be where everyone’s stress levels increase. I think it goes without saying not to pack sharp implements, but even kids toy guns, razors etc should never be in your hand luggage. Ideally pack all liquids in your checked baggage also but if you need to have them in your hand luggage, make sure that there are no liquids over 100ml, as these will be confiscated. Some things are evidently liquid, like drinks and perfume, others are less obvious, like gels, pastes, lotions, toothpastes, hair gels, face creams, liquid cosmetics, lip-gloss, deodorants and shaving foam. Any liquids at all even below the 100ml limit should be placed in one clear plastic bag and separated from your bag on the trays provided.

Medication is allowed but you may have to demonstrate that they are for medical purposes so I would recommend a note from your doctor stating this. Likewise baby liquids, drinks are allowed but you may have to drink them to prove they are indeed what you say they are! Remember to remove outer jackets, belts, shoes, laptops from cases when you reach the passenger security screening area as this will speed things up.

airport tips

8. Before you board.

When you make it through the screening area check the flight information screens, to see which gate your flight is departing from. Sometimes gates can change for operational reasons. If shopping in Duty free on the way out, make sure to use Shop and Collect system – they take care of your purchases and you don’t need to worry about the extra weight in your luggage, you simply pick them up when you return. Take advantage of the ‘honest’  airplane water stops that are scattered around the terminal. Put €1 in the box provided so you will have water when you board and stay hydrated for your journey!

 

Bon voyage!

 

Want to see more travel tips? Click here!

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

City BreaksDestinationsEurope

Cascais and the Lisbon Coast

Lisbon

Despite visiting Portugal on many occasions, I had never visited Lisbon until recently. I wanted a beach holiday but with the opportunity to do some sightseeing too – the Lisbon Coast has both in abundance.

 

I was really impressed by the Lisbon Coast as a holiday destination, it had something for everyone. I stayed in the beautiful village of Cascais which offered the best of both worlds. We enjoyed staying in a holiday resort, but within easy access to Lisbon. Lisbon is a great city to visit. It is so colourful, has a great food scene and there is an endless supply of sights to see.

things to do on the lisbon coast

 

Things to do in Lisbon

If you are on a city break and staying in Lisbon you may get to see all of the top attractions, but if like us you are staying along the Lisbon Coast, and day-tripping to Lisbon, it is impossible to see everything! I would recommend taking one of the old fashioned trams and doing a hop on hop off city tour, this will enable you to see as much as possible. If you want to go it alone, Tram 28 offers the best route to all the sights.

 
things to do on the lisbon coast
 

The city is quite spread out, but using the trams will allow you see the cultural centre of Belem, the Castelo de Sao Jorge and even climb the Cristo Rei: a huge statue of Christ where you can see views of the whole city. If you are travelling with children, the Aquarium is a must-see. It’s one of the worlds largest aquariums, and one that you could easily find yourself spending the day in!

Wondering where to stay in Lisbon? Read my top picks of 3, 4 & 5-Star Lisbon hotels here.

 

 

 

Things to do on The Lisbon Coast 

A visit to Sintra is one of the top attractions on the Lisbon Coast. Wander through the narrow streets and marvel at the architecture that dates back to the fifteenth century. It has numerous designated UNESCO world heritage sites, the most famous being the National Palace. I loved the lesser known Quinta de Regaleira, a mystical place, great for families with children, who can explore the many nooks and crannies in its wonderful gardens. There are underground tunnels, waterfalls and a magical castle. My son Luke (6) thought we were in middle earth and needless to say he thoroughly enjoyed it!
 
things to do on the lisbon coast
 

 

 
If, like us, you want to stay in a beach resort, there many to choose from. We chose Cascais and loved it. It is such a charming town, filled with quaint cobbled stone streets, some great shops, and a huge variety of restaurants to cater for every palate. I found a little gem hidden away from the main centre called 5 Sentidos, Casa do Largo, with typical Portugeese food that catered really well for all of us. There is a nice cove beach with a marina close by and plenty of larger beaches a few minutes drive from the centre too.
 

 

 

 

 
The beaches at Guincho are particularly impressive,  with huge waves and wide stretches of sandy beach. The train station is right in the centre of the town, with trains going every 20 minutes to Lisbon and the surrounding area.

Overall it was a great trip. It was not your typical family beach holiday, but that was part of the charm. When I think of the thousands of Irish visitors that travel to the Algarve each year, I enjoyed taking the path less travelled on, it made all the difference!
 

 

 

Wondering where to stay in Lisbon? Read my top picks of 3, 4 & 5-Star Lisbon hotels here.

 

Like city breaks? See more here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

Travel

Glamping – What’s all the fuss about?

Glamping Sarah Slattery The Travel Expert

Being a travel agent, I love nothing more than jetting off to a hot climate and a sandy beach.

Every now and then, a new trend in travel appears. Some are short-lived whereas others seem to capture the imagination of everybody and anybody who tries it.

 

What is Glamping? | Grove Lane Glamping | Exploring Killarney | Stories by the Fire

I do like small breaks away in Ireland too or ‘mini breaks’ as my kids call them. They let you have a few days away without breaking the bank and without too much effort packing and planning! We decided to try ‘glamping‘. I felt that I should at least experience what so many other families were talking about and see if it really was different to traditional camping that we did as kids.

Glamping Sarah Slattery The Travel Expert

What is Glamping?

When I started my research I noticed that the word ‘glamping’ or glamorous camping which is the literal translation can really mean anything from a fancy tent with a mattress to a log cabin in the woods with flat screen TVs.  There are also traditional style camp sites with lots of facilities for kids, boating, playgrounds, even swimming pools that are categorised as glamping sites because they have facilities that regular camp sites don’t have. My first piece of advice is to find out what exactly you want from your glamping experience. Do you want kids facilities? Or comfortable log cabins? Maybe you fancy a luxury tent in peaceful surroundings?  Do you want to cook on an open fire and feel at one with nature? All good questions! I choose the latter. To me a log cabin with a tv is not camping and I really didn’t fancy hundreds of people squashed together in one of those glamping sites with slides, zip lines and go karts.

O'Connells 17

Grove Lane Glamping

I chose Grove Lane in Killarney, a small glamping site with only five bell tents and where they limit the number of families to two, so that its never over run with kids. It’s actually quite romantic and attracts a lot of couples too. There are some friendly resident horses and cats and plenty of things to keep the kids amused. The tents come with a comfortable double bed, camp beds for the kids and a hot stove which seems to heat up instantly so you never feel the cold. They also supply lots of board games, cards and toys that we played with as kids! ! There is an individual kitchen behind each tent complete with BBQ and plenty of utensils. The toilet facilities are only 10 meters from your tent, there is plenty of hot water and showers with good pressure which was a pleasant surprise.

Glamping Sarah Slattery The Travel Expert
guide waited in the boat to bring us back.  There is also the world renowned Muckross House and gardens and Torc Waterfall, suffice to say their are numerous attractions in Killarney to keep everyone amused. And if you choose to eat out there you will be spoilt for choice with typical Irish pubs in abundance, all of which have great menus and plenty of ‘craic’. I couldn’t resist Las Ramblas though, a lovely tapas restaurant just off the Main Street. The food was excellent and very reasonably priced. The kids loved the pasta with meatballs and we chose a selection of tapas which were all delicious.

Glamping Sarah Slattery The Travel Expert

Stories by the Fire

Although I enjoyed dining out, one of the highlights of the weekend was the fire pit in the woods. We cooked delicious steak on the bbq and toasted marshmallows (also provided) over the fire pit.  I really felt I was experiencing camping and with creature comforts. Huddled around the fire, we even found ourselves doing a spot of star gazing and telling ghost stories to the kids, it’s something that you would never imagine doing on a typical summer holiday. I must point out though that although I buy into the slogan ‘there is no place like Ireland when you get the weather’, Im not so sure I would have had the same experience in the rain! I would suggest booking in the summer months where you have the best possible chance of good weather, or alternatively leave it late to book so you can gauge the weather forecast.

Glamping Sarah Slattery The Travel Expert

Linda and Mike the owners, couldn’t be more friendly, it’s a very personal experience for them and you get the feeling that they really care about your time there. They want to be sure that you really make the most of it and are always available if you have any queries.

There is no Xbox! There is no wifi! It’s board games and playing cards, its really back to nature albeit with a touch of glamour! We really felt that we were away from the hustle and bustle of every day life.  When I asked my seven year old son what he enjoyed the most from the weekend he said ‘everything’ and I couldnt sum it up any better myself, its an experience that I would recommend to all families.

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

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Family Holiday Guide to Zakynthos, Greece

Zakynthos

With beautiful scenery, amazing food and a low cost of living, it’s not surprising that Zakynthos is a firm favourite with Irish holidaymakers.

 

Until recently however, Greece was considered more suitable for couples or groups than families. I guess the perception was that the accommodation was more basic in Greece than its European counterparts and maybe lacking in some kids facilities. This may have been the case many years ago but certainly not any more…

Family Friendly Zakynthos Resort

I managed to find a great family resort on the Island of Zakynthos called the Alykanas Beach Village. It’s like a hotel but with self catering facilities so if you have small kids this is ideal for making breakfasts, baby food etc. They have endless facilities for adults and children, day and evening entertainment, a kids water park, kids clubs and  three swimming pools. There is a ‘quiet’ pool if  day time entertainment isn’t your thing and failing that, the Hotel is right on the beach.  They also offer free wifi, although if you are an avid ‘Facebooker’ beware –  it can be temperamental! 

Splash park at Alykanas beach resort, Zakynthos

 

Many family resorts in Greece are ‘All Inclusive’ , with all meals and drinks included. This works very well for many families but personally I prefer to dine out so the Alykanas Beach Village suited me perfectly. In Greece, the food is so good and so cheap, my personal favourites are their traditional dishes like stifado or saganaki and of course the typical Greek salads. The restaurants cater so well for kids too with most places having play areas or bouncing castles. My little ones had great fun choosing the restaurant each night and the restaurants with biggest play areas usually got picked! They also believe that the best spaghetti bolognese is not to be had in Italy, but in Zakynthos!


Zakynthos
But it’s not just the accommodation that made the holiday so special for me. Zakynthos has so much to see and do for all family. There are numerous options for day trips, a trip to see the famous loggerhead sea turtles is a must. These are now endangered so it is great to see them in their natural habitat. Another famous landmark is Navagio or ‘Shipwreck beach’ as its more commonly called. It is the most photographed beach in the world and is simply stunning.  It is only accessible by boat but there are organised boat trips to bring you there from all of the holiday resorts. A word of warning though, the bus trip from your Hotel is not the most comfortable! It is a long winding road and can lead to some upset tummies.  If you are travelling with kids make sure you get good seats on the lower deck of the bus ; trust me, the sound of sick kids on the upper deck was  not a pleasant way to start the trip! The pictures that you see of Navagio beach on various websites are, dare I say, a little misleading! Yes, it still is a stunning site, but the white ‘sandy’ beach that you see in the photos is actually tiny white stones and is quite hard underfoot. I would recommend that you bring surf shoes to make it easier to jump off the boat and if you want to go swimming. Also bear in mind that unless you go extremely early in the morning or late at night, there will be thousands of other people on the beach with you!


Navagio beach, Zakynthos
Although I would highly recommend taking one of the organised boat trips, if you don’t fancy doing this there are numerous other activities to satisfy you. All of the typical water sports you would expect to find at a beach resort are in Zakynthos too, from pedaloes with slides to glass bottom boat rides.  There is also a waterpark with plenty of slides and high speed tubes to keep kids entertained all day long.  And if you are still looking for more action you can visit the larger island of Kefalonia, less than an hour by boat, see the setting for Captain Corelli’s mandolin and the beautiful capital, Argostoli.

I am writing this on my return plane journey home, a leisurely 3 and a half hour flight. I can’t help asking why have I waited so long to bring my kids to Greece? It has so much to offer and still relatively unspoilt, I will definitely be returning.

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

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