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In The Media

My Favourite Travel Hacks As Seen on Saturday AM

Being a savvy traveller is easier than you think, just remember to use some of my favourite travel hacks!

 

Research the weather

Before you book any holiday it is important to gauge what the weather will be like. In the age of constant climate change, the wunderground website is an excellent resource for checking historical weather. It will show you the temperature and rainfall for the same period you are looking to travel in, over the past number of years.  No more guesses, these are real temperatures which should give you the best indication of what the weather will be like, at your chosen destination.

Check in online, prebook seats & meals.

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

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

favourite travel hacks

Prebook attraction tickets.

Read travel blogs on the area you are going to, or use TripAdvisor to find out the top things to do in a particular destination. Check the local tourist boards for free activities and for discovery passes. Usually you will find a bulk attraction / city pass is cheaper than paying for each attraction separately. Websites such as Attraction Tickets Direct offer huge discounts for booking in advance and offer real tickets, so you can avoid queuing for tickets at your destination.

Take out car hire excess insurance

Car hire excess is a personal bug bear of mine. When you arrive at an airport, particularly with kids in tow, the car hire companies always insist you take their car hire excess policy, and they usually charge exorbitant rates. You can avoid paying these by taking out a car hire excess insurance policy before you travel. With prices from €2.99 per day instead of €15 per day (approx cost), this is a must have if you are hiring a car abroad. Visit carhireexcess.com for more details.

favourite travel hacks

Travelling with kids

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

If travelling on a city break, choose an early flight home. Once you have checked out of the hotel, the kids will just want to go home and you will spend a fortune trying to amuse them on the last day. The €30 saving you thought you had by coming back on the later flight, believe me you will spend it twice over. For city breaks where there is a lot of walking involved, buy a €20 fold up scooter from Smyths and depending on your weight allowance, leave it behind you if necessary.

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

I wish my kids didn’t need electronic devices to on holidays, but they can be a Godsend! Invest in a Mediashare, it’s a small portable device that creates it’s own wifi network so kids can watch movies and listen to music on their tablets or phones anywhere, even on a plane. It is also really compact so much easier to carry than a portable DVD player and lots of DVDs.

Verbatim 49160 MediaShare Mini Wireless MicroSD Card Reader Black Amazon.co.uk Computers Accessories

 

Use travel apps

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

Tripadvisor app is invaluable when checking restaurant or attraction reviews. It will also send you push notifications about highly rated restaurants or attractions close by. Many people don’t realise it but Google Maps can also be used offline. Download your route plans before you leave home and use them offline on holidays. Google translate is another excellent tool, you can use your phone’s camera to photograph menus, sign posts etc, and it will translate them to English for you.

favourite travel hacks  

Photocopy or scan important documents.

It is not something we like to think about but is it possible that you could be a victim of a crime on holidays, or simply loose your passport or other documents. Passport, insurance details, credit cards, flight tickets – all of which are much easier to replace if you have copies of the originals safely stored. Alternatively, store the scanned documents in the ‘Cloud’, using Google Drive (15GB of free space and part of your Gmail account), Dropbox which gives you 2GB of free storage space or an app like Evernote. These digital copies are stored safely online and available by logging into from any computer in the world.

 

Have you any favourite travel hacks? Comment below, I would love to hear them!

 

Like Travel Tips? See more here!

 

Sarah

In The Media

Staycations as seen on TV3’s Sunday AM – 9th April 2017

The-Travel-Expert-As-Seen-on-TV3

Looking for a last minute Easter break or want some inspiration for Summer holidays? Check out some of my favourite staycations as seen on TV3’s Sunday AM.

 

Causeway Coast

I’m just back from a magical trip to the Causeway Coast. Before I went I thought the main highlight was the Giant’s Causeway, however there is so much more to see. What’s great about this coastline is that all the main attractions are so close together. The Giants Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Dunluce Castle and the Dark Hedges are all within a 20 minute drive from each other. The coastal drive is as good if not better than I have seen on the Wild Atlantic Way and the dining options are excellent. For more information on my trip, read my blog post on the Causeway Coast. We stayed in a beautiful 3 story 3 bedroom house in Ballycastle, a great option for families, and is available through Airbnb. The Bushmills Inn is a great choice for couples, a multi award-winning boutique hotel and restaurant, ranked in the top 25 hotels on tripadvisor in the UK.

Bushmills Inn Hotel

Price for 2 nights B&B with cocktail, 4 course meal on first evening, entrance to Giants Causeway. £255 per person midweek over Easter holidays. Summer time £258 per person 1 night B&B, £50 a la carte credit, entrance to Giants Causeway. 

Click here for more details: 

Staycations as seen on TV3's Sunday AM - Causeway Coast

Beachview House, Ballycastle ( Airnbnb)

Price per night from €130 – €150 per night during the summer months. There is limited availability at Easter from Wednesday 19th April for two nights €189 per night including cleaning and Airbnb service fee.  If you haven’t tried Airbnb before sign up here and save €20 off your first stay.

Click here for more details:

staycations as seen on TV3's Sunday Am - Ballycastle

 

Castlerosse Hotel, Killarney

There is so much to do in Killarney that you really need a minimum of four days, but more if you have it! The Killarney National Park, Mucross Abbey, Torc Waterfall, the ring of Kerry are just some of the highlights. The Castlerosse Hotel is a great choice, particularly for families as they have self catering cottages on site that have access to the hotels facilities. The hotel has a 20 metre swimming pool, kids club and lots of sports activities as well having an idyllic location overlooking the lakes of Killarney.

staycations as seen on TV3's Sunday AM - Killarney

There is limited availability during Easter holidays. Prices from €490 for 3 nights BB & Dinner each day, for 2 adults & 2children. Summer prices in July & August €590 for B&B & Dinner each day for 2 adults & 2 children.

Click here for more details:

 

Harvey’s Point, Donegal.

Voted best hotel in Ireland and 25th best in the world by tripadvisor, if you are looking for a staycation, this has to be on your list. Its only 6km from Donegal Town but miles apart at the same time as it is situated on the shores of Lough Eske and the foot of the Blue Stack mountains. Harvey’s Point offers award winning cuisine and is definitely one for the romantics, as suites come with a bath tub for two!

staycations as seen on TV3's Sunday Am - Harveys Point

Price for a two night break in a suite with breakfast, one evening meal is €238 pp midweek and €299pp weekend until the 21st of June. There is availability over Easter holidays, not Easter Saturday but before or afterwards.

Click here for more details:

 

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Galway.

Situated in Connemara, this luxury castle overlooks the Ballynahinch river in an idyllic location. This is perfect for a romantic getaway or a family break. Enjoy guided adventure walks through the woods or some fishing on the lake. Children will love the farm animals on site and the art competitions run by the hotel. The cultural village of Roundstone is only 15 minutes drive away and Leenane, the village made famous by the movie, The Field, is a 40 minute drive.

staycations as seen on TV3's Sunday Am - Ballynahinch Castle

They have availability at Easter time. Price for a two night stay is €580 based on 2 adults and 2 children, including breakfast each day.

Click here for more details:

 

Like Staycations? Read some of my favourite staycations here.

 

Sarah 

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In The MediaTravel Tips

Top tips for booking holidays as seen on TV3’s Sunday AM

The-Travel-Expert-As-Seen-on-TV3

Trying to book a holiday and wondering what websites to use? Think you don’t need travel insurance ? Wonder how to get the best value when checking in luggage? Check out my top tips for booking holidays as seen on TV3’s Sunday AM.

 

1. Compare like with like

Regardless of whether we book holidays online or go to a travel agent, most of us will at least do our research and search prices online. It is important when we do this that we compare like with like. Package holidays with tour operators like TUI or Sunway include transfers and checked baggage and rarely have any hidden extras. If you book flights and hotels separately you will always have to add on transfers, baggage and sometimes hotel taxes too.  Make sure the deal you think you are getting really is as good as it looks.

Top tips for booking holidays

 

2. Ensure the company you are booking with is licensed and bonded.

If you do decide to book online, make sure the company is bonded and licensed with the Commission for Aviation Regulation. ALL travel agents require a license and bond to trade, a website selling accommodation only, doesn’t. I know this might seem crazy but its true! We only have to recall the nightmare last summer when 15,000 Irish people were stranded when low cost holidays went bust.

 

3. Read the small print.

If something looks to good to be true, then it usually is. If you see flights to the States for €199 its probably via two or even three different airports and may take you a day to get there. Always check the duration of the flight so you will instantly know if there are stops involved. The stopovers are often hidden in the small print at the end of the booking.  Similarly with hotel rooms, if it states non refundable, they mean that. You will often see a hotel room cheaper on one website than an other but usually it is because the rate is non refundable. You will have to pay in full at the time of booking and under no circumstance will you be allowed change or cancel the room.

Top tips for booking holidays

 

4. Get Travel Insurance

No one imagines that the horror story they have read about in the papers, could happen to them – it can! The E111 form only covers you in a public hospital, it will not cover an air ambulance ( average cost €50K) or if you have to curtail your holiday and fly home to a sick family member. You will need insurance. Likewise holiday disruption due to flight cancellations or ash cloud are only covered with travel insurance. Multitrip.com have annual policies from €15.95 so you really have no excuse…

Annual Travel Insurance

 

5. Invest in lightweight luggage.

Invest in the lightest checked and hand luggage you can find. And buy hand luggage for all the family. Kids love to wheel their own case and if you buy good lightweight cases it will save you a fortune in the long run on baggage charges. Check the hand luggage allowance as some charter airlines only allow 7kg. Remember if travelling with children, Aer Lingus and Ryanair give half price checked baggage for kids but this is only available at the time of booking. If you wait to add on baggage later you will pay the full price.

 

6. Check passport and visa requirements.

It may seem obvious to check your passport, but some countries require that it is valid for 6 months after your stay, so make sure you double check this. There is a handy passport reminder service on the website where you put in the date your passport is due to expire and you receive a reminder 6 months before the expiry date, by email. Apply for your passport early. The so called ‘2 week passport express’ is only a guideline and in many cases it can take up to 6 weeks in peak season. If travelling to the USA you need to ensure you have filled out an ESTA online and if travelling to Canada an ETA is required. If unsure about visa requirements always check with visafirst, they have an office in Stephens Green and are contactable via phone or email.

Top tips for booking holidays

7. Check out these travel websites.

 

To search for airfares & hotel separately:

Skyscanner combine all airlines in their searches. Although Aer Lingus and Ryanair are the main carriers to Europe there are many airlines flying to European and worldwide routes that you may not be aware of.  SAS and Norwegian fly to Copenhagen as well as other Northern European countries. Vueling fly to Barcelona and Iberia Express fly to Madrid, these carriers are often much cheaper than Ryanair or Aer Lingus. Check flying outbound with one airline and flying home with another, this might save you money and sometimes flight times might be more suitable too. If looking for the best value on hotels, Trivago and tripadvisor are aggregators and will search numerous hotel sites to bring you back the lowest prices.

To search for package deals:

Sunway and TUI offer great package deals which include flights, accommodation, transfers and checked baggage.  Loveholidays.ie are relatively new in Ireland but their searches are excellent. You can search by temperature, by slides in the pool, even disabled facilities.

loveholidays.ie

 

To search for weather:

Wunderground, this has a historical weather tab so you can see what the weather was like at the same time last year, or for a few years. Loveholidays.ie have a temperature bar so you can drag the temperature up to 25 degrees and avoid pages of holidays to the Algarve in December.

 

8. Call a travel agent.

In many cases they will find lower prices for you. Even if they can only match the price you already have, at least you will have an expert at the other end of the phone in case of an emergency. Remember, many websites don’t offer the same service.

 

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

 

Sarah 
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In The Media

Travel Hot Spots for 2017 – As Seen on TV3’s Saturday AM

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Spain, Portugal and Croatia are looking like the top short haul destinations this year while America and Asia lead the way in long haul travel. Check out my travel hot spots for 2017 as seen on TV3’s Saturday AM.

  

European holiday destinations 

Sunway

Spain and Portugal will remain the most popular short haul holiday destinations in 2017. 1.8 million Irish holiday makers went to Spain in 2016 and this year should attract similar numbers. The Costa Dorada could be the big winner. There are flights from Dublin, Shannon, Cork and Knock serving Reus, Girona or Barcelona. Sunway and Falcon Holidays both offer package deals to Salou and Cambrils. The combination of the iconic city of Barcelona and the opening of Ferrari World at the already popular Port Aventura theme park, make it an ideal choice for all the family.

Travel hot spots for 2017

The Algarve has almost fifty flights per week from Irish airports, in the peak Summer months. Aer Lingus have added a new service to Porto, and Lisbon is already a popular city break destination. Sunway have introduced a direct flight to Sardinia in Italy, a welcome return for those looking for nice beaches in Italy. Ryanair, Aer Lingus and Aegean air are all flying to Athens so this should help those looking to travel to the bucket list destinations of Santorini and Mykonos.

Croatia may prove to be the hot spot for people looking to go somewhere different but want to be close to home. Aer Lingus have introduced flights to Split and they also fly to Pula and Dubrovnik, while Ryanair fly to Zadar. I was in Pula last year and loved it, you can read all about my stay here.

Fly from Dublin to Pula with Aer Lingus on the 23rd of May and enjoy a seven night stay in the popular Splendid Hotel for only €349 per person, including airport transfers. Situated right at the waters edge, this is a great choice for a relaxing break and is within easy reach of the city of Pula. Use my exclusive code TRAVELEXP10 to save 10% off the hotel cost.

Click here for more details.

Travel hot spots for 2017
Amphitheatre in Pula

City Breaks

WOW air have increased flights from Dublin to Reykjavik and added on a service from Cork. It looks like Iceland will remain popular in 2017 for weekend breaks and as a holiday destination. KLM are now flying four times a day to Amsterdam as well as Aer Lingus and Ryanair so this could prove another cheap city break option.

Porto for me will be the big winner. When Aer Lingus announced they were flying to Porto, Ryanair decided to increase their flights. We now have 8 flights a week to the small city of Porto – it could prove to be this years top city break destination. It is one of Europe’s oldest cities and almost feels medieval. It is also a good choice for food lovers. You will find some excellent restaurants serving traditional Portuguese food and wine, at a fraction of the cost you would pay at home.

I found a great deal to the 4* Cristal Porto hotel in May, highly recommended on tripadvisor, this modern hotel ticks all boxes. Fly from Dublin on the 11th of May and enjoy a three night stay here for only €237 per person.

Click here to book flights: €75pp:

Click here to book hotel: €162pp

Travel hot spots for 2017
Porto 

Cruises

Cruise Holiday

One of the fastest growing sectors in the travel industry, cruise holidays should have another bumper year. The competition has never been greater. Most major cruise lines have dedicated Irish websites now and many travel agents and tour operators have dedicated cruise departments. Free all inclusive drinks packages, half price kids offers and even free flights, will I am sure, entice Irish holidaymakers to cruise in 2017. New destinations like Cuba will make it easier for visitors to visit Havana without paying the increasing accommodation costs. River cruises are also proving popular for discerning clients. For those who don’t want to fly there are also cruises operating directly from Ireland in 2017.

travel hot spots for 2017
MSC Meraviglia

MSC’s Get more, Get All campaign offers free WiFi, free all-inclusive drinks package and €50 on board credit. This deal is also available on their brand new luxury ship, MSC Meraviglia. Fly from Dublin to Barcelona on the 8th of September and enjoy a seven night Med cruise, visiting Spain, France, Italy and Malta for only €1399. This price includes an upgrade to a balcony cabin, a FREE all-inclusive drinks package, FREE Wi-Fi and €50 on board credit.

Click here for more details:

 

Long Haul destinations

Flights to the States have grown to unprecedented levels. New routes to from Aer Lingus to Hartford and Miami and extra flights to Los Angeles, Orlando, Chicago and New York, should translate into a bumper year for Irish tourists to the USA. The addition of low cost flights with Norwegian Air from Cork to Boston and New York, as well as WOW air flights via Iceland, should ensure lots of good deals for Irish holidaymakers.

travel hot spots for 2017
Miami

With two direct daily flights to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi and now a new daily service to Doha with Qatar airlines, getting to Asia, Africa and Australia has never been easier. No lengthy lay overs in Heathrow and with so many flights, prices will be very competitive. Ethiopian airlines‘ Dreamliner aircraft made many news reports when they offered cheap direct flights from Dublin to Los Angeles this year. They have now added extra connections from their hub in Addis Ababa to South Africa. This means that flights from Dublin to Cape Town are easily accessible and hopefully well priced too.

 

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

 

Sarah

 travel deals

In The Media

Easter Breaks, As Seen On TV3’s Sunday AM

The-Travel-Expert-As-Seen-on-TV3

Still wondering what to do during the Easter holidays? Here are my my top picks for Easter breaks as seen on TV3’s Sunday AM.

 

Easter holidays are particularly long this year with schools closing for almost three weeks. Many families are taking the opportunity to travel long-haul, either to relatives living abroad or to bucket list family holiday destinations, like Florida. The good news is that because the break is so long there is no peak date for short-haul holidays. Some are travelling over Patrick’s Day and coming home for Easter and therefore the peak Easter week isn’t sold out like previous years. So if you are thinking of a last minute get away, there is still availability and the prices might surprise you . Check out my top pics below.

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Algarve 27th March, 7 Nights €369 per person; 2adults & 2children €1438

If you are looking for a good value break at Easter, it is hard to beat the Algarve. Prices flying on Easter Sunday are low and you can get a week in a popular family run hotel near Albuferia, for €369 per person. The Aguamarinha hotel gets great reviews on tripadvisor and was awarded a certificate of excellence. If you are afraid you wont get the weather, temperatures last year were as high as 27 degrees at that time and average temperatures over the past few years are about 19 degrees. If you want to bring the kids the 4* Paraiso in Albufeira are a good choice, price for 2 adults and 2 children is €1438 including flights. If you can take an extra days holiday and stay for 8 nights, the price is much lower, 2 sharing is €282 and 2 adults & 2 children is €1085 , both departing on the 27th of April and returning Monday the 4th of April.

Click here for Aguamarinha Hotel, 2 sharing €369

Click here for Paraiso Apartments, 2 adults & 2 children €1438

The Travel Expert's top picks for Easter breaks

 

Lanzarote 26th March, 7 Nights €519, 2 adults & 2children €1716

If you want to be guaranteed the weather then the Canary Islands are probably your best bet. Topflight still have availability to Lanzarote, flying out on Easter Saturday. A week in a two bedroomed apartment in Puerto del Carmen is €1716, based on 2 adults and 2 children, or €519 based on 2 sharing. This includes Aer Lingus flights, baggage and transfers too. Topflight also have deals to Lake Garda and the ski slopes if you fancy something a little different.

Click here for more details:

The Travel Expert's top picks for Easter breaks

 

Rome 30th March 2 night city break €384

There are some cheap flights to Rome if you can travel midweek during the Easter holidays. Clickandgo.com are offering a two night stay from the 30th of March from €384 per person including Aer Lingus flights and breakfast each day. The flight departs from Dublin early in the morning and returns late in the evening so you have three full days there.

Click here for more details:

The Travel Experts top picks for Easter breaks

 

Uniworld River Cruises – Various Cruises 20th, 27th March, 7 nights 50% off.

Uniworld are the ultimate in river cruising. They offer 5* deluxe boutique cruises that include excursions, all meals, drinks (even champagne) in lavish surroundings. The attention to detail, fine dining and authentic holiday experiences are some of the reasons that Uniworld have won best luxury cruise line for the past seven years. They are offering 50% off many of their cruises during Easter holidays. My personal favourite is the Bordeaux, Vineyards & Chateaux cruise which was €3293 and is now €1730 on the 27th of March for seven nights, you can read more about it here.

Click here for more details:

Top picks for Easter breaks by the Travel Expert

 

For the latest Easter offers from Ireland’s leading travel agents click here.  Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change.

 

Sarah

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In The Media

Romantic Holidays As Seen on TV3 Saturday AM – 6th February 2016

TV3 Sat AM

Love is in the air for this weeks Saturday AM travel slot. We discussed romantic holidays including Ireland’s top hotels, a weekend break in Florence and a magical trip to the Maldives.

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Ashford Castle

Not only is Ashford Castle Ireland’s best hotel but it was also voted the world’s No 1 hotel in 2015 by one of the industry’s leading luxury networks – Virtuoso. €75 million has been invested into the hotel over the past two years and there is no doubt this 13th century castle offers something unique to its guests. As you drive in under the impressive gates, through the golf course and across the moat – you will be blown away before you even set foot inside the hotel. Once inside the attention to detail is extraordinary. Complete with excellent service and the finest furnishings, when it comes to romantic hotels in Ireland, it doesn’t get any better than this!

Ashford castle discussed by Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert on Saturday AM

You can choose one of the many sporting activities including golf, falconry, horse riding, fishing or spend the afternoon relaxing at the spa – you will be spoilt for choice here. There is also an excellent choice of dining available. Choose fine dining in the famous George V Dining Room or casual dining in their Summer Bistro or Dungeon restaurant.

Ashford castle discussed by Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert on Saturday AM

As it is a leap year, Ashford are offering a “Leap of Faith’ package for ladies who would like to propose. Price of €563 per person includes a two night stay with breakfast, a five course fine dining meal, couples spa treatments and a visit to the in house cinema to see the movie Leap Year. It doesn’t end there! During the movie you can arrange for a secret proposal to happen on the big screen. This will be arranged by the staff to suit your individual taste. And of course you will be given a bottle of champagne to celebrate!

Ashford castle discussed by Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert on Saturday AM

There are also special offers available during February & March which would be ideal as Valentines day gifts. Two nights BB and one evening meal from €285 per person or two nights BB and two evening meals plus afternoon tea from €380 per person. For more details click here.

Monart

The difference between Monart and other luxury hotels is that Monart is Ireland’s only destination Spa property. It offers a unique adults-only environment and was recently awarded ‘runner up best spa retreat in the world’, by Conde Nast Traveller. It was also named as Ireland’s best destination spa for four years in a row. If you are looking for a spa break, there is no doubt – Monart is the best!

Monart Spa Resort discussed by Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert on Saturday AM

All spa products at Monart are 100% natural. They use Pevonia Botanica, the award-winning natural skincare range and Voya, 100% organic seaweed body therapies. The deluxe accommodation and excellent cuisine are also top class and as Monart is situated on 100 acres – you will feel utterly relaxed here.

Monart Spa Resort discussed by Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert on Saturday AM

Monart have limited availability for Valentine’s weekend with packages from €185 per person including breakfast, evening meal and full access to the 2000 square foot Thermal suite throughout your stay.

Monart Spa Resort discussed by Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert on Saturday AM

Alternatively they have over night stays available throughout the year from €149 per person – a perfect Valentines day gift. For more details click here.

Florence

Florence is Italy’s most romantic city and must rival Paris for being Europe’s city of love. Smaller and more compact than Paris it offers a more intimate feel. It is so easy to navigate and you should manage to see most of the highlights in a weekend break.

Florence by The Travel Expert

The Ponte Vecchio bridge is lined with jewellery shops just asking for the ring to be chosen. The city oozes style so its not surprising that Gucci and Roberto Cavalli were born here! The Uffizi Gallery houses one of the largest collections of art in the world and the Cathedral (Duomo) is one of the most impressive you are likely to see anywhere.

Duomo, Florence by The Travel Expert

If you have the time, a trip into the Tuscan countryside will only add to the romance. Choose from Siena, San Gimignano, Chianti – all a short distance from Florence. I found a great deal departing on the 7th of May for only €215 including flights and three nights hotel accommodation. The perfect gift for your loved one on Valentines day! Click here for more details.  

Maldives

The beaches are white powder, the temperatures are approximately 30 degrees all year round and each resort is on its own island. The word paradise automatically springs to mind! Not surprisingly the Maldives are one of the most romantic places to holiday.

Kandolhu Island, Maldives by The Travel Expert

There are almost 1200 islands spread out over 1000 km of which 100 are tourist islands and 200 are locally inhabited. Even the airport is on a separate island as it is literally a runway in the ocean! Renowned as an underwater paradise each island is surrounded by its own reef which is perfect for snorkeling or scuba diving. Many rooms or villas are situated over the ocean with direct access to the sea. The atmosphere is so relaxed that even in the 5* resorts, a beach dress and flip flops are the norm at night. So ladies, no need to pack ten pairs of shoes!

Kandolhu, Maldives, The ultimate honeymoon by The Travel Expert

Normally once you land you will transfer to a sea plane to bring you to the island resort. As everything needs to be imported, items can be expensive so I would recommend going all inclusive. Be careful though as some all inclusive resorts will only allow you use the buffet restaurant and you will have to pay extra to use the a la carte restaurants on the island. I can recommend Kuramathi, an excellent 4*+ resort who offer a ‘select’ all inclusive package, that includes nine a la carte restaurants. Prices from €2745 per person include flights and seven nights accommodation in a jacuzzi beach villa, with sea plane transfers and the select all inclusive dining package. For more information click here.  Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert talks about the Maldives on Saturday AM

If you want to go 5*, Kandolhu has four a la carte restaurants and even your own wine cooler stocked with 30 bottles of wine in your villa! Will you manage to get through them all though…. 

I hope I gave you some ideas of how to surprise your loved on on Valentines day or at some stage in the future. For more ideas read my blog post – the top 10 romantic destinations.

 

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

 

Sarah

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In The Media

As Seen On TV3 – 10th January 2016

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Planning a holiday in 2016? As seen on TV3 SundayAM , check out my best reasons to book early, top tips to get the best deals and where I think the hot spots will be this year.

 

Best Reasons To Book Early:

Generally speaking it pays to book early, particularly if you are looking for something specific or if travelling during school holidays. If you have a large family and need a two or three bedroom apartment or have to take particular holidays in work you should book now.  Most airlines including Aer Lingus and Ryanair have Summer sales and prices normally increase closer to departure. Many hotel websites are offering early booking savings of up to 20% if booked before the 31st of January. Tour Operators Falcon Holidays and Sunway are offering great early booking deals, including free child places and low booking deposits.

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Booking early makes budgeting a little easier too. Most travel agents will let you pay a deposit now and pay your holiday in instalments. It also gives you something nice to look forward to as you look out through your office window at the rain! If you over indulged over Christmas, ClickandGo.com are offering €1 deposits on all European holidays booked ten weeks in advance.

Lanzarote Family holiday by The Travel Expert

 

Tips To Find The Best Deals:

Rather than spending hours searching hundreds of different websites, there are a few sites that are worth checking out. The Irish Travel Agents Association and Worldchoice combine special offers from Ireland’s leading travel agents on their websites.  I also combine a list of the best travel deals from around the web every Tuesday and publish it here.

 

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When comparing package holidays with holidays you design yourself make sure you include baggage charges, airport transfers and local taxes. Most tour operator’s packages will have no hidden extras so make sure the ‘deal’ you think you have is really as good as it seems. Comparison websites such as Trivago or Tripadvisor  will search numerous websites for the same property and you may find significant savings. Check the distance from the airport too. Particularly in places like Barcelona, which according to Ryanair, has three airports! But Girona and Reus are miles from Barcelona. You may think you are getting a great deal and find out you have to pay hundreds of euro for an airport transfer.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert reviews cruising

 

When booking a flight make sure you check both one way and return airfares. With Aer Lingus and Ryanair for instance, you may find it is cheaper to fly out with one airline and home with another. This can also be useful for good flight times, one airline may have better times on the outward journey and another on the return. The lowcostholidays website will combine all airlines so you can automatically find the best airfares and quite often the lowest priced journey will be with two different carriers. If travelling with kids, Ryanair allow you to select half price bags even if adults are only taking hand luggage. With Aer Lingus you need to book an adult bag in order to get a child’s case for half price.

The Travel Expert's Top Ten Travel Hacks

 

Top Holiday destinations In 2016.

Easter will be big this year. Children have almost three weeks off school with Easter and Patricks day falling together, so get in early before prices rocket! I checked various options and prices are already quite high. The best family option I found is a week in Salou for €925 based on 2 adults and 2 children in the 4* Sanguli Resort. For more details read by blog here.

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I think campsites in Salou and Lake Garda will be particularly popular this year. Many will change from France because of the European championships and the Paris attacks. The ISIS effect also means that people will tend to stick to Spain, Portugal & Italy rather than North African destinations. This will be a European trend so the likelihood is that accommodation in these countries will be priced higher and more scarce than in previous years. This will be particularly problematic if looking for a last minute deal.

The Travel Expert on TV3 10th January 2016

 

There are direct flights to Mexico and Jamaica from June so they should be particularly popular with couples. With prices starting at €1589 for a 4* hotel on an all inclusive basis, including flights, transfers and baggage for two weeks, they are good value for long haul holidays direct from Dublin. You can pay a small booking deposit too, which is always appreciated! Check out Falconholidays.ie for more details.

Fuerteventura by The Travel Expert

 

Ryanair and Aegean airlines have introduced flights to Athens so this could be the big city break destination for 2016 . There are also onward connections with Aegean airlines to Santorini and Mykonos, which are bucket list destinations for many people.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert offers a travel deal to Santorini in 2016

 

For families looking for a relaxing family holiday Menorca could be the destination of choice this year. This is an ideal family destination. There are direct flights and package deals from Dublin with Sunway and new for 2016 is a direct flight from Cork with Stein Travel.

Menorca, one of the top ten holiday destinations for 2016 by The Travel Expert

 

Cruising is getting more and more popular and prices seem to be getting better each year. MSC Cruises are offering Mediterranean cruise package deals from €1095 in the summer months, including flights and free drinks pacakges. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises are offering buy one get one half price plus free drinks packages. The all inclusive package holiday concept seems to have transferred to cruises now!

 

Wherever you decide to go in 2016 – book now, sit back, relax and just wait for the sunshine ☀

 

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

 

Sarah

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Best Travel DealsIn The Media

As Seen on TV3’s Sunday Am – 8th Nov 2015

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Here are my top picks for pre Christmas breaks as seen on TV3’s Sunday AM.

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Christmas Market Breaks

The winter price war between Aer Lingus and Ryanair means there is still great value in Christmas market breaks. The Irish Travel Agents Association has many advertised in their offers section, with packages to cities such as Prague, Krakow, Berlin for less than €200 with flights and hotel.

The Travel Expert offers a Copenhagen Christmas market break

I particularly like the Copenhagen Christmas market, it offers something different to the eastern European markets. Tivoli Gardens is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks and is situated right in the heart of the city. It is filled with over 500,000 fairy lights and decorated to look like a winter wonderland. There are light shows, concerts, fantastic restaurants and over 60 market stalls. You can take a spin on a rollercoaster or sip some mulled wine, while catching a top class concert. The market itself is the destination. Its also a great place to bring children, with lots of amusement rides for all ages and you can even combine it with a visit to Santa, who is on site! Note that the Tivoli Gardens market is open until the 2nd of January (most of the others are closed by Christmas Eve), so it is a ideal place for a post Christmas break too. ClickandGo are offering a great deal to Copenhagen in December, with Aer Lingus flights and two nights in a 4* Hotel for only €219. For more details click here.

 

Christmas Shopping Breaks To New York

Another holiday that has made a huge come back this year is the Christmas shopping break in New York. Despite the exchange rate there are still plenty of bargains to be found.

A Christmas shopping weekend in New York by The Travel Expert

 Century 21 department store (an American version of TK Maxx) is open from 730am so its an ideal place to start. Inevitably with the time difference you will find you are wide awake at 6 am the day after you arrive. Its also easier to find bargains when the store is neat and tidy – don’t try to go in the evening time, its like a jumble sale! Most of us love Macys and Bloomingdales and there are plenty of bargains to be found coming up to Christmas. My personal favourite is the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets. They have all the top designer clothes for a fraction of the price you would pay at home. It is also a really nice place to shop, like a massive Kildare village. Of course if you don’t want to venture outside of Manhattan you can always pick up the latest designer bag or jewellery on Canal Street for $20! For more details on shopping in New York, read my blog here.  The Christmas tree at Rockefeller centre is illuminated on the 2nd of December so I chose a package on the 4th of December. The price for flights and hotel for three nights is €695 per person, click here for more details.

 

Lapland

I went on a two night trip last year with my husband and two children and loved it. It was by far the best family holiday I have had, and one that I will never forget. It is not just about meeting the ‘real’ Santa, the whole experience is magical. The excitement starts from the minute you arrive at the airport to check in, the sign reads The North Pole, the excitement never goes away. There is entertainment on the short three hour flight and when you arrive at your log cabin in the snow, its like a winter wonderland. The trip included snowmobiling, husky & reindeer rides and a visit Santa’s post office and village. I would say to anyone to beg, borrow or steal to go, the memories will last a lifetime for you, and your children. For more information on my trip, read my blog here.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert offers an over night trip to Lapland

Sunway have the largest number of flights with 8 operating between Dublin and Cork. The two night trips are full and there is very limited availability on the 1 night trips. Likewise Cantebury Travel’s two and three night trips are also full. The good news is that Falcon Holidays still have availability left on their day trips. Prices are from €639 for adults and €579 for children and there is availability on the 5th, 12th and 18th of December. I would recommend anyone who is planning for next year to book well in advance. Use it as a savings club perhaps, pay a small deposit and pay in monthly instalments.

Like what you see, click here to see my best travel deals:

 

Sarah
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Best Travel Deals

Best Travel Deals As Seen On TV3’s Sunday Am

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Check out my best travel deals as seen on TV3’s Sunday Am on the 20th of September 2015.

 

Christmas Market Breaks:

Christmas markets are very much back in vogue. Ryanair have added extra capacity to many cities throughout the winter with lots of low priced airfares available.  I chose Berlin as it has over 50 markets to choose from and something to appeal to everyone. Sip some mulled wine while enjoying Christmas carols at the traditional markets of Charlottenburg Castle or the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Check out one of the Christmas Rock concerts at the Spandau Old Town market or try Europe’s largest mobile toboggan run at the lively Potsdamer Platz market. For more info on Europe’s top Christmas markets read my blog here.

Fly from Dublin to Berlin on the 1st or 8th of December and spend three nights at the Mark Hotel for only €199. Click here for more details.

Christmas market in Berlin by The Travel Expert as seen on SundayAM TV3

Girls Weekend Away:

Marbella is a great choice for a girls weekend away. There is plenty of style and glamour with a beachfront location, what more could you ask for! Sip a cocktail in Sinatras and simply people watch or dance the night away in the many bars or night clubs. There are lots of great shops in the old town that wont break the bank or if you want to flash the cash, there is no better place with lots of designer shops in the port to tempt you.

Fly from Dublin on the 6th of May and stay at the 3* San Cristobal Hotel for three nights for only €219 per person. Click here for more details.

The-Travel-Expert-offer-on-Marbella as seen on TV3

Family Holiday to Florida:

Florida is THE bucket list destination for families. There are over twelve theme parks and four waterparks so it is an adventure as well as a holiday! Enjoy the magic of Disney and marvel at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Shop till you drop at the outlets or swim with the Dolphins at Discovery Cove. I have chosen the 3* Ramada Gateway Kissimmee Hotel which is close to Disney but also offers a free shuttle bus to all the other main parks.

Fly from Dublin on the 8th of June and spend two weeks here for only €2399 based on two adults and 2 children. Click here for more details.

Universal Studios, Florida by The Travel Expert as seen on TV3

 

Like what you see, click here to see more great travel deals:

 

Sarah
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