Category Archives: destinations

Splurge On Exotic Vacations Without Breaking The Bank

Looking out of the window to see rain lashing the panes, frost kissing the roofs of houses and cars and hearing those winds howling can be depressing. Winter may bring the holidays and the festive season along with all the delicious comfort foods you could want, but having to brave harsh weather while you shop? Not so fun! Daydreaming about far-flung locations full of white-sugar beaches, crashing oceans and sunbeams that tan your skin to perfection is the favoured past time for most people. You may well have been to some of the most tropical locations across the globe. You may well have jostled for position in front of the Mona Lisa to get the best selfie. The thing is, that wanderlust that once dragged you around on your gap year hasn’t gone away. It’s very much there and yet heading to exotic locations full of beautiful sights and even tastier food is harder when you’re on a tight budget.

You want to book vacations in great locations but you want the best value for your money at the same time. Often, the best and brightest vacation ideas with the clearest oceans and softest sand are expensive. Long-haul vacations are always more expensive than short-haul, and the reason for this is purely distance. The further you travel, the pricier it’ll be to get there. Sure, you could save your cash and recreate your own exotic vacation from home, complete with a seafood order from citarella.com to get those fresh flavours you so crave. You could put in a tanning bulb and stick your feet in a bucket of sand while playing wave sounds – but it’s just not quite the same! This won’t get rid of the desperate need to travel and see new places, breathe new air. So, the trick is to find the best destinations with the cheapest price tag – and we’ve got some of those for you below.

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Puerto Escondido, Mexico

There is so much more to Mexico than the places that are splashed across the travel brochures. Sure, you’re looking for the beaches and the food and the culture, but going to the tourist traps often just gets you the same food in a different place, with a little sunshine on top. Puerto Escondido is a town that was populated by surfers and the prices you will find reflect the reality of life in Mexico, rather than the completely over-inflated tourist version you find online. There are plenty of places to stay on a budget, and the authentic Mexican tacos can be found inexpensively. There’s no need to go to a tourist trap to enjoy a Mexican experience!

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Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a beautiful country that is well-known for its city break popularity. It’s one of the least expensive places to visit in Europe, and because of this it is vastly underrated. People bypass the cobblestoned charm and the tall, towering castles full of history and culture for the islands of Greece or the cities of Italy. Veliko Tarnovo, however, has so much to offer. Hiking for the adventure seekers in the hilly terrains edging the town, and there are places to see in the town itself that offer food and drink at amazingly cheap rates. There is so much history steeped here, that those looking for something more than just a beach and an ocean will find it. Nightly light shows that light up the ruins of a medieval stronghold would usually be expensive and really bust your budget. Not here. Not in Veliko Tarnovo.

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Goa, India

The place to visit to find oneself has always been Goa. Popular for tourists, hippies and those looking to find their inner calm, Goa has grown up significantly over the past twenty years. The attraction of the area hasn’t changed, and neither has the rock bottom prices on offer here. However, you can still see the Arabian Sea in all its calm glory. You can still choose between ancient temples, casinos and beaches full of soft white sand. Nobody misses out when it comes to visiting Goa. You don’t have to be draped in sarongs and get high off of life to enjoy yourself – come as you are, everyone is invited.

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Transylvania, Romania

You’ve heard the stories of vampires and Dracula, but Transylvania is so much more than its stories. Ruins that date back for hundreds of years, hiking trails that are on offer to all those looking for a challenge and vineyards full of white wine that will literally have your taste buds dancing. Transylvania is a place for those who want authenticity, exotic food choices and something off the beaten track. It’s not somewhere that is thrust in your face when you are looking for a break, but it’s somewhere you should consider when you want a change. Not to mention, Transylvania is excellent value for money, meaning you can squeeze a lot of what you fancy into a vacation that won’t cost the earth.

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Selva Negra, Northern Nicaragua

If you haven’t heard of the cloud forest, you need to start doing your research. Selva Negra is a 300-acre nature reserve that is perfect for hiking. Unplug from life and start your vacation hiking the steep hills to the top to see the blanket of moist cloud laying just beneath you. There is a coffee plantation right at the edge of the forest, and that combined with getting stuck into nature are a brilliant way to simply unwind from the working week. You won’t have to pay through the nose for accommodation, either, with options at the Ecolodge starting low.

Getting away somewhere unheard of isn’t the difficult bit – coming home is. Once you get a taste of places that are new and budget-friendly, it’s hard not to be bitten by the travel bug all over again. Don’t worry though, with places being so cheap, you’ll want to be bitten so that you can get a different perspective of the world – wherever you choose to go.

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Beaches vs Skiing

Both have their pros and cons depending on what you’re looking for. But whichever one you’re travelling to, you’re in for a good time. A lot of people head for the traditional beach holiday not knowing what they’re missing with a skiing holiday. Yet a lot of people head to the slopes for an action packed holiday, but don’t realize you can have just as much fun on a beach holiday. So which one wins? Is it a beach holiday or a skiing one? Both have their pros and cons depending on what you’re going there for. If you know you prefer one over the other, then let this article open your mind to new possibilities.

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Skiing Holidays

Beach lovers listen up, you’re missing a trick if you don’t at least once head to the slopes and experience the thrill of a skiing holiday. Let’s first talk about the destination. There are some really stunning destinations all over the world where ski resorts lie, but if you head to Andorra, Andorra ski holidays will give you an experience like no other. The accommodation is luxurious and so is the location. Imagine yourself in a wooden lodge, the fires roaring away, the snow is trickling down outside, and you’re cuddled up with the fluffiest blanket in front of the fire, drinking hot chocolate after a day on the cold slopes. Does it sound perfect? We think it does! We keep saying skiing, but you can also try your hand at snowboarding if that takes your fancy more. As you head up the slopes there will be a number of different restaurants along the way if you decide you need a break. A lot of people chose to go up on the lifts and stop off at every restaurant along the way. When you do get to the slope you want to go down, the adrenaline rush you’ll have will be insane, plus it is just so much more fun than you realize!


Beach Holidays

Convincing an adrenaline junky to go on a relaxing beach holiday is hard, but we think we know how to do it. Sometimes in life you just need a little relaxation, which a beach holiday does give. But this isn’t all the offer. If you head to islands like Tenerife, you’ll have plenty of action packed things to do to keep you occupied. There’s the buggy experience up Mount Teide which sees you out all day racing round the winding mountain road, or there’s plenty of watersports on the beach to keep you occupied. If you get there and realize the relaxation life is for you, then there’s plenty of beautiful beaches where you can catch some rays. The nightlife in Tenerife is amazing, especially if you head to Playa De Las Americas. There’s tons of amazing restaurants. Some of the beach front hotels are stunning and offer incredible views to wake up to. Whether you head there and still want a bit of adrenaline, or realise you need to relaxation time, Tenerife has it all for you. 

The Best Destinations For A Christmas Holiday Getaway

Not everybody enjoys spending Christmas at home. For personal or practical reasons, many people choose to spend the festive season away. You can get some incredible deals if you book early enough, whether you want to enjoy the Christmas spirit in a faraway land, or want to forsake festivities altogether and enjoy sunnier climes away from the snow. 


The following are the holiday destinations that we think are perfect for anybody wanting to holiday this winter season.


Rome

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Rome is perfect for those who enjoy the religious aspects of Christmas. With Midnight Mass at the Pantheon on Christmas Eve, there is the opportunity to stand with the hundreds of people who celebrate Christ’s birth. Then stand under one of the biggest Christmas trees you will ever see at St Peter’s Square, and listen to the Pope give his traditional Christmas Day speech from this very location. However, Rome is also great for the people of any (or no) faith. There is a giant Christmas market at the Piazza Navona, with mulled wine and hot food to keep you warm. There is a giant outdoor ice skating rink at Castel Sant’angelo, and then there is the wonderful Christmas light display lined across many of Rome’s famed shopping streets.

Lapland

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You may have already read our article on things to do in Finland, but if not, know that is the holiday destination to visit if you have a young family. You will need to wrap up warm, but the trek to see Santa Claus at his Christmas Village is worth the winter chill. Tour the area on a dog-pulled sleigh or snowmobile, and catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights which are greater than any Christmas light display. Lapland is one of the most popular Winter destinations, so you will need to book early to avoid disappointment. Don’t worry, Santa will still visit you at home if you don’t make it!

The Gold Coast

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Can’t stand the cold and the snow? Then head to warmer climes and book one of these

Elite Holiday Homes on the Gold Coast. If you are a bit of a Grinch and want to get away from anything to do with Christmas, you can sunbathe on one of the many beaches, with endless stretches of sand and sea. However, if you still want to celebrate the season, there is much to do. Visit the seaside resort of Surfers Paradise and catch the unusual sight of Santa’s sleigh being pulled along by kangaroos, visit the Sanctuary Cove Christmas Carnival at the Marine Village, and keep up with the Joneses by heading to suburbia for the annual Christmas Light competition. You won’t even need to don your hat and gloves, unlike your poor relatives at home.

New York

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Home to many of the best Christmas movies… Home Alone 2, Miracle on 34th Street and.. erm.. Die Hard… you are guaranteed to have a magical time in this, one of the greatest cities in the world. Walk down Fifth Avenue and check out the iconic window displays at Bergdorf Goodman. Take the Holiday Train Show through the Botanical Gardens, and marvel at the miniaturised versions of The Statue of Liberty and Grand Central Station. Go and see the classic Christmas tale The Nutcracker, performed by The New York City Ballet. Ice skate at Central Park. Then gaze in awe at the festive light display on the Empire State Building. Absolutely magical!

Over to you

So, what are you going to do this Christmas? You don’t need to stay at home with your bickering relatives if they drive you up the wall. Fly away to one of the destinations we mentioned, and enjoy the season celebrating the season the way you want to.





Things To Remember For Your Trip Down Under

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There’s no better feeling than seeing the world, and I mean with your own two eyes and not through a computer screen. For one reason or another, a place that is on most people’s bucket list is Australia. Perhaps it’s the warm weather, the magnificent beaches, the wine or the food, but whatever the reason, if you are planning to travel to Australia anytime soon, there are a few things that you have to remember.

Skip The Hotel

If you don’t know already, things in Australia cost a lot more than they do back home. This is likely to be because workers in Australia are paid a lot more per hour than they would in most other countries. Unfortunately, this means that you’ll need to take a lot of money with you on your trip. To cut costs a little, skip the hotel, and book a room or apartment using Airbnb instead. This means that you can also save on food, as you can cook your own meals, instead of eating out.

Rent A Car

If you’re planning to visit Perth, the capital of Western Australia, then you will likely need to rent a car during your stay. This is because Perth is incredibly spread out, so it takes a while to get anywhere. Public transport is great, with some bus and train systems even offering free rides, but is also often overcrowded, which won’t make for fun mornings if it’s really warm. Click vehicle hire Perth if you need to hire a car for your trip.

Book Travel Insurance

You should take out travel insurance whenever you leave the country, just in case anything happens, but when travelling to somewhere like Australia, it’s absolutely essential. For starters, you’re travelling a much longer distance, which means there’s a much higher chance for your airline to lose one of your suitcases. There are also a lot more dangers in Australia, especially if you intend to do any adventure sports, like scuba diving.

The Climate’s Opposite

A lot of people think that Australia is hot all year round, when there are four seasons a year, just like most other places. In fact, the seasons are opposite to those in the Northern Hemisphere, with summer being from December to February, and winter being from June to August. You can even get snow, as long as you visit the southern mountain regions. If you are visiting Australia throughout the summer, you have to remember to keep in the shade as much as possible and be sure to slap on sunscreen. You can burn to a crisp in under thirty minutes if you’re not careful, so be careful.

There is a lot to see and do in Australia, but if you want to make the most out of your trip, and stay safe, then be sure to remember the advice above. In particular, be sure to be safe with the sun, and book your travel insurance. Other than that, have lot’s of fun and take plenty of pictures to remember your time away.   

Making the Most of a Cotswolds Trip

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The Cotswolds is one of those places you can’t help but love. Stunning landscapes, exciting attractions, great food and historical monuments – it has everything you could want from a holiday destination and more! In fact, there’s so much to do in the area, that it could be difficult narrowing your itinerary down! Let me help you with that by telling you about some things you absolutely MUST do and see when you’re in the area…

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

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If you’re an animal lover, you simply must take the time to visit the Cotswolds Wildlife Park, which is probably the biggest and best family attraction in the area. While you’re there, you’ll get to see lions, giraffes, monkey and even penguins – you’ll be in animal heaven!

The Wood Norton

If you’re a fully paid-up member of the foodie club, then you’re really going to want to stop off at Evesham around dinner time. Why? Because that’s where you’ll find The Wood Norton – a luxury local hotel with an even more luxurious restaurant. Try the 7-course tasting menu, and you won’t be disappointed by the fine award-winning food on offer. Oh, it’s all locally sourced too!

Cheltenham Racecourse

Cheltenham is one of the biggest and best racecourses in the country, so if you like a little flutter, you won’t want to pass up the opportunity to put on your glad rags for a day at the races. Who knows, you might even win big and have an even better time than you imagined!

The Slaughters

Despite its rather macabre name, The Slaughters, which is made up of Upper and Lower Slaughter is a beautiful place with some of the most spectacular views in the country. If you love looking at landscapes, and you like to stay active, it’s a great place to spend some time walking.

Westonbirt Arboretum

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If you’re looking for a romantic place to spend some time with your beau, look no further than this stunning arboretum, which is populated with more than 600 acres of trees from all around the world. It really is one of the most stunning tree gardens you’re ever likely to see, and the perfect spot to steal a kiss or two from the one you love!

The Birthplace of William Shakespeare

Whether you’re a fan of his work or not, you can’t deny Shakespeare’s talent nor his lasting influence on modern culture, which means that a visit to the home where he was born and grew up is a must if you’re in the Stratford area. You might also want to visit the theatre and see one of his finest, too!

The Model Village

If you have the time, take a trip to the quaint little village of Bourton-on-the-Water, where no matter how old you might be, you will be delighted by The Model Village – a one-ninth scale replica of the village which is it’s home. The detail that has been put into its creation, right down to the tiniest flowers, will really blow you away.

If the Cotswolds wasn’t already on your ‘To Visit’ list, add it right now!

6 Things To Do In Finland This Winter

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Finland is the ultimate festive wonderland if you are looking for a place to get yourself ready for Christmas. During the winter months, Finland is covered in thick snow and has plenty of amazing places to visit, from national parks, to Santa’s home, to bustling cities filled with festive smells and sights.

So the question is, what to do in Finland in winter? Well, here are some great ideas for you…

1.Santa Claus Village

This village is underneath the Arctic Circle, and takes you away from the real world and into Santa’s. You’ll find yourself in the midst of everything festive as you bake with Mrs Claus, meet the man himself and even attend elf school. If you weren’t feeling festive before, you will be now.

2. Kemi

If you love the snow, then a visit to the village of Kemi will be just the thing for you. You’ll be able to make towering snowmen, have fun in the snow with your skis, or even go sledding with the kids. It’s like the ultimate snowy wonderland for you and your family.

3. Lapland

Santa lives in Lapland, and you will find no shortage of the festive spirit visiting the northernmost region of the country. Reindeer roam wild in the forests, and you will be able to ride and feed them too. At Santa’s grotto, you will be able to experience a magical sleigh ride and plenty of festive fun.

4. The Festival of St Lucia

For those of you who haven’t heard of this festival: it occurs every December 13th and celebrates the life of St Lucia. St Lucia was a Christian girl who became a martyr in 304. The festival celebrates her life with a girl wearing a crown of candles. Everyone parade through the streets and eats great food to celebrate the life of this young saint.

5. Christmas Markets, Helsinki

The Christmas markets are one of the most festive places to be in December. They happen all over Europe, but in Finland the most impressive is in the capital, Helsinki. In this city, an ice skating rink is open to the public throughout the winter, and snow covers the entire landscape. You’ll be able to walk around and smell various cheeses, meats and sweets cooking on the street; as well as warm your cockles with a mug of mulled wine. Walk around and do some Christmas shopping as you enjoy the full immersive festive experience.

6. Turku

If it is an old-fashioned, quirky village experience you are after, then Turku is the best place to visit at this time of the year. Turku is not only the former capital of Finland, but it is also the oldest city in the entire country. As you walk through the cobbled streets and thin alleyways, you’ll be able to visit tonnes of independent shop owners selling unique pieces and wears. The whole city becomes blanketed in snow during the colder months, so you’ll be able to fully experience walking through a winter wonderland. 

 16 Places to See Before You Die

Traveling is a brilliant thing. It lets you see the world, meet new people, have new experiences, learn about responsibility, nature, money, politics and culture and can genuinely shape you as a person. Everyone should travel at least a little in their lives.

But, we all do it in different ways. Some of us try to see vast amounts of the world in one go on a giant expedition. Other people go on the odd city break and family weeks away with their kids. Some even wait until retirement and travel the world in their own time, with a little more money behind them, knowing they have no commitments tying them down at home and feeling like they’ve earned this one great adventure.

We also have different places on our travel bucket lists. Some of us want to visit sites of great romance, others have an urge to visit the sites of great battles, and some just want to go to Disneyland. It’s all cool. But, whenever you travel, whoever you do it with, and whatever your personal to-do list includes, there are some amazing places on earth that absolutely everyone should see before they die. Those places that take your breath away, put your life into perspective and inspire you. The sights and scenes that no computer screen or postcard could ever do justice. The places you cannot merely just hear or read about. Here is a look at 16 of these destinations.

Venice, Italy

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If you are after a romantic city break, there’s none better than Venice. Spend time exploring the city’s canals by gondola, check out the renaissance architecture such as St. Mark’s Basilica and eat authentic Italian cuisine in its home. It’s also thought that Venice could be completely under water within a century if the Mediterranean Sea continues to rise. So, you’ll be experiencing something that future generations will never get a chance to see.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

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The great barrier reef is a popular feature on any list of must-see places. If you’ve got a keen interest in nature, swimming the Great Barrier Reef is an absolute must. The diversity of sea life, with over 1600 different species of fish, as well as other underwater life and nature, is truly breathtaking.

Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia

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Salar De Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat at 10582 square kilometres. In the right weather conditions, it’s basically transformed into a giant mirror, reflected the skyline and giving a somewhat ethereal imagery.  A vision you won’t see anywhere else on earth.

Zhangye Danxia Landform, China

Also known as The Rainbow Mountains, the colourful rock formations of the Zhangye Danxia Landform in China are truly a once in a lifetime experience. The mountain sides appear to be stripes of different colours, pushed together, almost like a drawing. This is a result of red sandstone and mineral deposits collecting over 24 million years.

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

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The Grand Canyon is so well known, it’s often one of the first places people think of when writing their travel bucket lists. The best word to describe the Canyon is immense. It’s layered rock displays millions of years of geological history, and it has a wonderful way of putting your own problems and worries into perspective.

Bamboo Forest, Japan

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The Bamboo Forest is a popular tourist attraction in Arashiyama, Kyoto. Walking through the forest, you are surrounded by tall bamboo. Depending on the season of your visit, the bamboo displays varying colours including reds, yellows and oranges.

Reed Flute Cave, China

Also known as The Palace of Natural Arts, the Reed Flute Cave is named for the colourful and divergent reeds growing around its entrance. The cave itself is a water-eroded natural limestone cave. The rock formations inside have taken on many different shapes and colours, and the cave contains original ink inscriptions dating back to the 8th century.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

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This national park is a forest reserve in central Croatia. If you are looking for peace and quiet and a chance to get back to nature while exploring the gorgeous scenery, this is it. The park is home to 16 lakes, joined together by waterfalls which extend into a limestone canyon. There are also hiking trails around the water to make exploring easy.

The Great Blue Hole, Belize

The Great Blue Hole of Belize is the most massive sinkhole in the world. If you are a keen diver, like the Great Barrier Reef this is a place you simply have to dive. Explore sea life and nature you won’t get to see anywhere else on earth.

Yellowstone National Park, USA

The many National Parks in the USA are all home to their own communities, histories and culture. They offer visitors the chance to learn about their history and formation as well as any nature they may find. Yellowstone national park spreads from Wyoming into both Idaho and Montana. It’s home to canyons, rivers, forest, hot springs and geysers and hundreds of different animal species. A must for anyone that likes a bit of adventure on their break.

Taj Mahal, India

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The Taj Mahal is well known for its beauty and grace. Even if you’ve got no interest in religion, you’ll more than likely find yourself feeling more spiritual during your trip. It’s a building renowned as a symbol of love and passion and can change your outlook on the world in general.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat is the biggest religious monument in the world. A group of temple buildings, well maintained and preserved Angkor Wat is something of an architectural masterpiece. It’s the perfect blend of a huge, overpowering structure, and beautiful tiny details and will take your breath away again and again as you notice more of the finer details once you start to explore.

While you are allowed to explore the whole site, Angkor Wat is a sacred site, so you will be required to dress modestly, with your arms and legs covered for the duration of your visit.

Pamukkale, Turkey

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Pamukkale is a town filled with hot, mineral-rich waters, which flow down a white hillside. It almost looks like something from a fantasy film. People believe that the soothing waters have healing properties. But, whether or not this is true, it’s great for your skin and a truly relaxing experience.

Lencois Maranhenses, Brazil

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Lencois Maranhenses is a sight to behold, unlike anything else on earth. The huge expanses of desert surround fresh rainwater lagoons. Seeing it first hand can be shocking like your eyes can’t quite accept what they see as the gorgeous white sands lead into still blue waters. Definitely worth a trip.

The Northern Lights, Iceland

Seeing the Northern lights is a once in a lifetime experience. But, unfortunately, they can be hard to predict. The best time to visit Iceland if you are hoping to see the northern lights is when the nights are darkest, between September and April. But even within those months, weather plays an important part. Staying away from the city lights out in the country can also increase your chances.

Uluwatu Temple, Bali

Bali itself is a must-visit destination with its long sandy beaches, relaxing hideaways, volcanic mountains, coral reefs and wine paddies. Uluwatu Temple is a sea temple dedicated to Sang Hyang Wasa. The perfect place to visit to meditate and unwind. With so much to see, bali holiday packages can offer the best way to get around and make the most of your trip.

Remember, you’ve got your whole life to see them all. It’s never too late, or too early. So, write yourself a list and get going. 

Ed note: I’ve seen 2.5 out of 16! (I can’t fully count the Grand Canyon because I don’t remember that trip as a toddler.) Tell me how many of these you’ve seen in the comments! 

Destinations So Perfect You’ll Want To Move There

It’s one thing having a lovely holiday that you know you will never forget. It’s quite another, however, to end up living there. There are specific locations which are just so beautiful that it is hard to tear yourself away from them and go home. And while it’s not always an immediate decision, from time to time you might just end up actually buying somewhere and moving there. Alternatively, you could end up getting hold of a second home or holiday home which you can visit for the holidays. But what kind of destinations tend to lend themselves to such moves?

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French Riviera

If you have never been to the French Riviera, you are in for a real treat. With some of the most stunning views anywhere in Europe, it’s not hard to see why this is such a perennially popular destination for so many people. But for a certain few who visit, it can also end up being the ideal place to move to. The truth is that you could do much worse than buy a luxury accommodation in the French Riviera. Not only will you be able to spend your days surrounded by natural beauty and bathed in sun, but you will also probably be pleasantly surprised at some of the prices of the accommodation too. This is a must-consider for anyone who wants that real dream holiday home feel for a lower price tag than you would expect.

Hawaii

It’s not only one of the most popular US destinations, but one of the most regularly visited groups of islands in the world. Hawaii offers a classic beach getaway feel, no matter which corner of which of its many islands you might end up on. With a great combination of continual party vibes and some of the most glorious weather anywhere on Earth, this is the ultimate spot on the globe for the laid-back traveller. If you decide you want to make that your way of life – like so many before you have done – then you can do so by just getting hold of a Hawaii property. There is indeed no shortage of these, and if you don’t mind moving in from the beach a little you can find one for less money than you have assumed. The culture might well make it one of the best places you can possibly live.

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Iceland

This next one is not somewhere that people often think of for moving home, but the truth is that it is one of the single most extraordinary destinations in the world. It is incredible as a tourist, and even better as a citizen. With some of the best happiness rates in the world, a strong economy and hugely polite people everywhere, this is a great place to settle if you are looking to get away from the rat race a little. It also happens to have a deliriously cheap cost of living. Just make sure that you are ready to wrap up warm for the foreseeable future.

Exploring The Pearl Of The Orient: Shanghai

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For those living in the West, Asia has been the topic of awe and wonderment for a very long time. With cultures which are very different to those found elsewhere, along with a rich history which has been largely uninfluenced by the rest of the world, this continent is a very interesting one. Along with this, though, it’s also incredibly large. This can make it impossible to decided exactly where you’d like to go in this part of the world, with all of the options you have. So, to help you out, this post will be going through one of the most popular Asian cities of all; Shanghai.

  • The City Itself

Being the most populous city in the world, with over 24 million permanent residents, Shanghai is constantly moving and changing. From one year to the next, the city grows by a huge amount, while also improving the areas they already have. This has created a very dynamic feel to Shanghai which isn’t found anywhere else around the globe. The area is thought to have been originally settled in around 4000 BC and has had loads of time to gather interesting landmarks and history for tourists to enjoy.

  • Things To Do

Of course, though, there wouldn’t be much point in going to a place like this if there wasn’t anything for you to do when you get there. Shanghai has a wide variety of attractions and days out to enjoy, and a lot of them are designed for families. Start with the most popular, Disneyland can be found here, providing a great way for families to enjoy their break. Along with this, though, you also have access to numerous temples, monuments, and other religious areas. A trip to Shanghai wouldn’t be complete with some exploration of the old towns, though. Heavy with culture and unique design, buildings in towns like Qibao are like no others in the world. Exploring a place like this will leave most tourists feeling in awe, especially considering the tools, materials, and techniques used by the builders who made them.

  • Places To Stay

As a very well populated city, Shanghai has its fair share of places to stay when you’re on your visit. Along with this, the diversity and economy in the area gives you the chance to find accommodation to match almost any budget. Finding the best Shanghai Hotel to stay in will take some work. To start, you should look at some reviews to give yourself an idea of how other guests enjoyed their stay somewhere. Once you have some good options, you can start to look for articles and blog posts specific to the place. With this sort of work being done, it should be easy to for you to find a hotel which fits both your requirements and your budget.

Shanghai is a truly amazing city. With such a huge population, there’s always something going on, and you never have to be too far from the action. This makes it the perfect location for anyone starting their exploration of Asia. But, it could also be the best option for those looking for an Asian city break.

Roars and Snores and So Much Mores!

Last weekend, I went camping. With lions.

Despite being only about an hour and a half away from my home, I felt as if I had somehow been transported to an African safari. I rode around in safari trucks with guides who knew a lot about the dozens of animals we passed. And before falling asleep in my tent, I listened to the carols of a pride of lions.

In reality, I was at Wildlife Safari near Winston, Oregon. I’ve been to this drive-thru safari experience a few times, but that wasn’t in the plans for this trip. I was there to take part in Roars and Snores, which involves a sleepover inside a lion enclosure, plus a jam-packed itinerary for animal enthusiasts. The event description on their website was somewhat vague, so I knew I was in for a weekend of surprises!

I arrived at Wildlife Safari an hour before Roars and Snores began. This was the perfect amount of time to enjoy the free Safari Village, which has a petting zoo, taxidermy room, and dozens of animals you can’t see in the drive-thru safari. There’s also an overlook to the lion enclosures, where I saw staff setting up for the night’s experience. Then I went to the gift shop to check-in. I was told to have a seat in the restaurant where guests would soon enjoy dinner and a presentation.

The barbecue-style dinner was delicious, with enough food and variety for everyone to eat as much as they wanted. Several zookeepers showed us slideshows about two animals we would see that evening: lions of course, and also bears. I learned a lot about these beasts, like how lions “carol”, which is a sort of role call using roars.

After everyone was stuffed, we walked it off on the way  to the nearby lion enclosure. The keepers explained how they don’t train Wildlife Safari’s animals to do tricks like a circus might. However, they do need to train the creatures in some ways to make sure that they stay healthy. For example, we got to watch the lions mimic their trainers by lifting up their paws, and that way they could be inspected for injuries. Each lion who did this was rewarded with raw meat kebabs. However, no one at Wildlife Safari forces the animals to do anything. These snacks were a good encouragement to get inspected and go into their nighttime shelter, but if a lion chose not to do this one night, then the staff would record this and try again the next day, but otherwise let the lion be.

Since these aren’t truly “trained” lions, we got to see some of their wild instincts up-close through the safety of a fence. When the lions saw the children in our group, or even adults squatting down, they would pace in front of that person. In the wild, lions often go after smaller prey because it’s a more guaranteed victory for them. But some of these lions’ habits weren’t the same as a wild lion. In this pride, a female was in charge. Typically a male would be the head of a pride, but since the two adult male lions were rescues, the females had more skills. The adult males are also kept separate from the cubs so that a male cub doesn’t try to overpower an adult male like they often do in the wild.

After the lions went to bed for the day, we hopped on the safari trucks and headed over to the bear enclosure. On the way, we passed through parts of the African and North American sections of the safari, so we got to see several species along the way. When we got to the bears, I watched them eat watermelon, play with boxes, and take their medicine. It was a great experience, but I hope I don’t get that close to a bear in nature!

By the time we were bussed down to the lion enclosure with all of our camping gear, it was getting dark. I don’t think I’ve ever set up my tent after sundown before, but it was accomplished! We were rewarded with a campfire and s’mores. Maybe the event should have been called Roars, Snores, and S’mores!

I really liked how the staff thought of everything to make the stay as pleasant as possible. Besides dinner and s’mores in the evening, ice chests full of beverages were available. This was especially helpful since I had left my water bottle in my car parked a mile away. An outhouse was places in our lion enclosure to use at night, but there were a few opportunities to use the Safari Village restrooms before that. (As a note, Safari Village is really cool after the park closes and the usual guests have left.) Even a continental breakfast was provided, which wasn’t mentioned in the information online.

Although this event is called Roars and Snores, neither of those happened until after I had crawled into my sleeping bag for the night. Lions use their roars as a way to keep track of everyone else, so when one lion roars, the others roar back. When the lions listen to this “carol”, they are able to tell if someone is missing, or if a stranger participated in the carol. They did this roll call (or is it a “roar call”?) several times at night before the roars of the lions were replaced by the snores of the other campers.

I awoke the next morning to more lion carols- quite the alarm clock! I got ready foe the day, tore down my campsite, and leisurely enjoyed the continental breakfast. Two African cranes noticed that all of us humans were caged up and walked over to the outside of our fence. It was like they had gone to the zoo to see the people exhibit!

Our first activity that morning was to go inside the enclosure that the lion cubs would use that day. We took cardboard boxes, spritzed them with perfume, and placed them around the enclosure. Apparently lions love playing with boxes and the scent of perfume interests them, but I think it also helped that the keepers placed meat in some of them! Once we were all safely outside of the enclosure, the lions were released and had a blast!

The last activity of Roars and Snores was with a big cat that can’t even roar. Everyone had the opportunity to get their picture taken with a cheetah. 

It’s hard to believe that thia all took place in less than 24 hours- they packed a lot into this short vacation! If this sounds like something you would like to do, check out Wildlife Safari’s website regularly for announcements about upcoming Roars and Snores sleepovers. They also sometimes offer an event that includes dibner for both you and the lions, bur without the campout. Your group could also book a private event that includes a lion encounter. Even if none of these are available for the date you want to visit, I’m sure you’ll still have a great time at Wildlife Safari at the drive-thru or in an animal encounter. 

PS- Discounted tickets are often available on Groupon, good for either drive-thru admission or an elephant car wash!