Three Romantic European Breaks for Valentine’s Day

As the 14th of February creeps up quickly on the calendar, so too does the stress of finding that perfect Valentine’s Day gift. But don’t panic. There’s still time to plan something that will really impress your other half. For a truly memorable way to show your special someone how much you love them, ditch the flowers and chocolates for a romantic break instead.

photo-hands-plane

Romance is all about spontaneity and by booking last minute holidays at this time of year, you can also save a lot more of your budget for romantic dinners and sweeping gestures! So where should you take your loved one this Valentine’s? Europe happens to be dotted with one romantic city after the next, but here are three destinations that are particularly adept at making the heart swoon:

Venice

Strolling through Venice feels like falling gracefully into a picturesque watercolour painting. Cosy, narrow streets, arched bridges and canals glistening in the moonlight are all it takes to fall in love all over again.

In a city seemingly built for romance, public displays of affection aren’t frowned upon but commonplace. This is the destination where you can quite literally push the boat out. Cuddle close on a gondola, raise a toast to your love over some fine Italian cuisine (for a true taste of Venice, you can’t go wrong with polenta and seafood) and top off the evening with a visit to one of the world’s finest opera houses: Teatro Le Fenice.

Vienna

The Austrian capital is a easy on the eyes and certainly a treat for the heart and soul. Its grand Romanesque, Baroque and Classicist architecture is as beautiful and refined as the great orchestral music the city is known for.

During your Valentine’s break in Vienna, be sure to visit the famous Schonbrunn Palace. This enormous Habsburg residence also features beautifully-manicured gardens, the ideal setting for a romantic stroll. It’s also worth treating your loved one to a scoop or two of Austria’s most delectable ice cream, which you can find at the Tichy ice cream parlour in the city’s 10th District.

Prague

It’s difficult to think of a more fairytale-like setting than Prague’s Medieval Old Town. Whether it’s sharing a kiss on the Charles Bridge, enjoying breathtaking city views from the charming Castle District (Hradcany) or reveling in the beauty of the St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague offers one romantic moment after the next.

When touring the Czech capital with your Valentine, be sure to make your way to the top of the Pet?ín Lookout Tower. Similar to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, there’s no doubt that Pet?ín is the most romantic setting in all of Prague.

This is a guest post by our friends from Travelzoo. Image by Bubble Fishh, used under Creative Commons license.

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Top 5 Museums in Malaga: Art, Wine and Classic Cars

Something for everybody

Grab your camera and head this way! If you’re a culture lover who’s chosen Malaga as your holiday destination, you’re in luck. This sunny Spanish city is the home of several unique museums. Below you’ll find our Top Five list. You’ll be sure to find something to tickle your fancy…

 

 

5th Place – Malaga Automobile Museum

Before you drop your jaw at the thought of a Swarovski-encrusted Roll Royce, let us quickly tell you about this fabulous museum building. The Museo Automovilístico de Málaga occupies a superbly renovated 1920’s tobacco factory with an ample Andalusian courtyard. It houses a collection of over 80 vintage and modern cars. You’ll find motor vehicles classed into eras like Belle Epoque or Art Deco, plus weird and wonderful pieces like 20’s driving hats and art-on-cars. The best thing? You can hire out some of these old beauties!

Tickets 6.50€

Opens: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-7pm

Closed Mondays, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day

Address: Avenida Sor Teresa Prat, 15, 29003 Malaga

Tel. (+34) 951 137 001

Top tip: Thinking car hire Malaga Airport…? If driving to the Automobile Museum, you’ll enjoy free parking during your visit.

4th Place – Museum of Glass and Crystal

This positively sumptuous new museum displays well over 600 pieces of precious crystal and glass, dating from over 2000 years back, right up to the 21st century. Set in a small city palace, the museum feels like a beautifully furnished private home, complete with retro furniture, paintings, rugs and mirrors. The museum manages to create a truly intimate atmosphere, yet offers a comprehensive and interesting display of glass through the ages.

 

Tickets 5€, includes guided tour

Opens: 11am-7pm, Tuesday to Sunday

Closed Mondays and during August

Address: Plazuela Santísimo Cristo de la Sangre 2, Malaga

Tel. (+34) 952 22 02 71

3rd Place – Wine Museum

The Malaga province is famous for its sweet moscatel and Spain is of course known for its Rioja region wines and Jerez Sherry. Start with admiring over 400 wine labels on display, have a look at winemaking history in the Malaga province and end the tour with wine tasting.

Tickets 6€

Opens: 12 noon-2.30pm, 4.30pm-7.30pm, Monday to Friday

Closed Mondays; 1, 6 January; 24, 25, 31 December; Thursday and Friday Easter Week

Address: Plaza de los Viñeros 1, 29008 Malaga

Tel. 952 228493

2nd Place – Contemporary Art Museum

In an area known as “Soho of Malaga” is the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo. Housed in a vast warehouse space, the CAC was officially inaugurated by her Royal Highness Princess Cristina of Spain in 2003. It has quickly become known as one of the best contemporary art museums in Europe. You’ll find the likes of Andy Warhol and Lichtenstein on permanent display and there is a yearly, changing program of exhibitions by up-and-coming international and Spanish artists.

 

Free entry

Opens: November-April (Tues-Sun) 10am-8pm, May-October (Tues-Sun) 10am-2pm and 5-9pm

Closed Mondays, December 25 & January 1

Address: Calle Alemania, s/n,  Malaga

Tel. (+34) 952 12 00 55

1st Place – Picasso  Museum

Malaga is so proud of its famous son, Picasso, that no other museum could take first place! On the opening day alone, 2000 peopyle visited the Museo Picasso in Malaga’s historic city centre. Queues still regularly form on the pavement outside, so be prepared to wait patiently to be able to admire this very important Spanish artist’s works, or book tickets ahead by telephone. As well as 12 permanent galleries, which include classic Picasso paintings like Olga Kokhlova with Mantilla and Mother and Child, there are also many fascinating sketches on display and regularly changing temporary exhibitions.

Top tip: Three blocks away on Plaza de la Merced is the birth home of Picasso, also open to the public.

Tickets 9€

Opens Tue-Thu 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10am-9pm, Sundays and Bank Holidays 10am-8pm, Christmas Eve and New Years Eve opens 10am-3pm

Closed Mondays, except July and August when opens 10am-8pm; closed Christmas Day, New Years Day

Address : Calle San Agustín 8, 29015 Malaga

Tel. (+34) 902 36 02 95, for advance ticket bookings

This is a guest post by our friends from Avis.

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A trip to the Lake District, UK

The Lake District is such an easy place to get to from almost anywhere in the UK, making it the perfect destination to visit on a trip to the UK for a. There are so many choices of places to stay in the Lake District with plenty of bunk houses and hostels. A great option is to club together with friends and rent a quaint and cosy Lake District cottage. Once you arrive at your accommodation, sit back, relax and let the holiday begin. With so much to do, it can be hard to know where to go and what to do but here are some ideas to get you started.

Crinkle Crags (Photo by AndrewH.uk, CC BY-ND 2.0, http://www.flickr.com/photos/34128388@N06/3237879075/)

Wonderful Waking

The Lake District is probably best known for its fantastic walking opportunities, with the stunning undulating backdrop of the lakes and fells. There really are walks to suit all ages and abilities from gentle walks around the lakes and in the valleys, to medium difficulty walks like the Crinkle Crags on the way to the summit of the Old Man of Coniston, or more challenging walks like heading to the summit of Helvellyn. Arthur Wainwright wrote a series of pictorial walking guides explaining his favourite walks in the Lake District so if you are planning to do some walking in the Lake District then investing in one of his walking guides is a great place to start.

Fantastic Food

Some of the best food in the UK can be found in the Lake District. From great local produce at farmers markets and local shops, to really lovely restaurants and great pubs serving home cooked food. Whilst you are in Cumbria, you must try a Cumberland sausage and of course it’s a great place to sample locally reared lamb. The Lake District is also a haven for people who, like me, have a sweet tooth, with sticky toffee pudding made in Cartmel, gingerbread made to a secret receipt in Grasmere and of course the famous Kendal mint cake. What better way to treat yourself after a busy day in the Lake District.

Amazing Adventures

If you love adventure then you will love the Lake District. Choose from mountain biking at Grizedale Forest where you can ride the 16km North Face Trial route through nine different sections, or make the most of the natural lakes by having a go at waterskiing on Windermere. For something truly different go underground and try out caving, or take to the skies and give skydiving a go. Whatever you choose, the Lake District is a fantastic playground for all adrenaline junkies.

This is a guest post by our friends from Sykes Holiday Cottages.

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Cambodia in a Nutshell

Cambodia is becoming an increasing popular tourist location. With dry season temperatures regularly reaching 40°C and an offering of beautiful beaches, exotic architecture and relaxed culture it’s easy to see why it is quickly becoming a sought after destination for jet setters and travellers alike. In recent years it has also developed into one of the more popular honeymoon destinations in South East Asia.

 

Cambodia’s rich religious and political history has left the country bursting with cultural sights and experiences, and the most modern of Cambodian cities Phom Penh doesn’t disappoint when it comes to architectural prowess. Must see attractions include the Buddhist temple Wat Phnom, The Royal Palace and the Independence Monument. If you like a lively atmosphere then be sure to time your trip to the capital with one of the festivals that take place throughout the year to really soak up the party spirit.

Any holiday to Cambodia wouldn’t be complete without at least a day spent in the mystical surroundings of Angkor. Standing majestically in the jungle, these breathtaking temples provide a glimpse into Cambodian history like no other. Get there early to watch the sun rise, or stay late to see the sun set on this beautiful landscape and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views to treasure forever.

 

With a 440 kilometre coastline along the Gulf of Thailand, Cambodia has stunning beaches both on the mainland and surrounding its luxurious islands. To those looking to get away from the cultural bustle of Cambodia’s main cities the sands of Sihanoukville and Kep make a perfect stopping point. Further adrift into the Gulf of Thailand the less developed islands of Koh Ouen and Koh Bong offer picturesque and tranquil surroundings. The Song Saa Private Island resort combines the natural environment with a relaxing atmosphere to create the perfect luxury retreat.

For those with an appetite for adventure, the ‘untouched’ Cambodia lies largely in the Northeast of the country. Wild landscapes, thick jungle and ethnic tribes inhabit the provinces of Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri and Stung Treng. It is here you can really relish being off the beaten track and discover shy Cambodian wildlife, imposing waterfalls and the mighty Mekong River.

This was a guest post by our friends at The Turquoise Holiday Company. All photos by turquoiseholidays.co.uk.

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Bermuda – Atlantic Paradise

Located in the middle of the north Atlantic Ocean between the United States and Europe lies Bermuda, an Atlantic paradise.  Located only 2 hours flight from Boston, and situated east of South Carolina (United States), the climate is sweet – around 83F in summer and 70F in the winter due to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.  Bermuda is generally thought of as a single island, known as the main island or Bermuda, but it is actually comprised of 181 islands.  Discovered in 1505 and settled by the English in 1615, Bermuda is an amazing combination of history, culture, and gorgeous environment.

Bermuda is known for its pink beaches, the best of which is Horseshoe Bay, a crescent beach of pink sand surrounded by clear blue waters and sandstone cliffs.  Tobacco Bay is another great beach featuring volcanic rock formations and waters great for snorkeling.  Elbow Beach is another world-class white sand beach, home to joggers, volley-ball games, kite-boarders and a shipwreck within swiming distance!

If the beaches don’t occupy all of your time while in Bermuda, there is plenty of culture and history.  Historic St. George’s is a World Heritage Site and can take up a full day of exploring.  Bermuda has over 90 forts that were built there over the last 400 years and many of them are still standing and ready for you to explore.

There are 65,000 residents of Bermuda where English is the main language, although surprisingly Portuguese is spoken by more than a few locals due to 200 years of immigration to Bermuda from the Azores, Madeira, and Cape Verde.  Bermuda has a strong economy, driven by off-shore banking  and tourism.  The currency is the Bermudian Dollar which is pegged to the US Dollar.  Be ready, as car rentals are not allowed – most visitors get around by renting a scooter or take the bus – but lately Segways are becoming popular!

There are many hotels in Bermuda and a few resorts.  But the best way to get to know the locals and enjoy your holiday is to rent a house for the week, where you can have lots of space to relax and your own kitchen.  Browse through these beautiful Bermuda rentals for your next holiday.  You can use Otalo, they search through all the vacation rentals websites for you in a single click!

This was a guest post by our friends from Otalo.com. All photos by Otalo.com.

 

 

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Sightseeing Attractions in Munich

As the capital of the state of Bavaria, Munich is a city that mixes old traditions with modern technology. Here you can find lederhosen clad men sitting next to corporal suits from BMW sharing a beer and a hearty Bavarian meal, in one of many beer gardens throughout the day. You can easily spend many days sightseeing in Munich and become immersed in the Bavarian friendly culture, only to find it hard to say goodbye when it is time to leave.

Looking out over Munich’s skyline two dominate Munich attractions will attract your eye. The first is the twin towers and red roof of the Frauenkirche (Cathedral Church of Our Lady) and the other is the gothic spirals jutting up from the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall). Built 1867-1909 the Neues Rathaus is one of Munich’s most photographed attractions, which sightseers flocking to the structure to watch the Glockenspiel play several times throughout the day. It is located in Marienplatz which a great starting point for guided tours through the city or to start your own tour to fantastic sights including the Hofbrauhaus, Viktualienmerkt and the Pinakotheken museums.

To escape the city streets, it is easy in the Munich with the Englischer Garten (English Garden) running through the city center. One of the world’s largest urban parks, the English Garden has lots to offer visitors with the Japanese Tea house, Chinese Tower, Monopteros and the famous Eisbach River. The river is man-made and has been made to create a 1 metre high standing wave which surfers and travellers surf upon all hours of the day. One other great Munich attraction that will make you forget you are in a big city is Schloss Nymphenburg. The Baroque palace itself is sensational but it is the palace gardens that are the most impressive. It is teeming with flowers and statutes along the canal banks and abundant green fields and trees to be slowly walked through and enjoyed.

Munich provides a great base for day tours by bus or train to famous historical sights. Dachau is easily reached on the S bahn around 40mins from Munich center. Famous for the concentration camp built during WWII, Dachau is also a quaint town with stunning restored houses and Dachau Castle. The Concentration Camp Memorial Site is a sobering activity but presents history in a respectful and imformative atmosphere.  Schloss Neuschwanstein is a superb attraction for all ages and a great way to spend a day. The castle is located 800m above sea level in the foothills of the Alps surrounded by thick green forests and two peaceful lakes that a perfect for a swim in the summer months. It is said that the Disney Castle was based off this Bavarian masterpiece.

Munich is a marvelous city for sightseeing and exploring, filled with world renowned activities and attractions that will interest all travellers. A tour through Germany would not be complete without stopping and engaging yourself in Munich’s must see sights.

This was a guest post by getyourguide.com.

 

 

 

 

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Las Vegas on a Shoestring

Las Vegas is a very young city by most standards and still exudes the youthful exuberance of a teenager. Most people equate Las Vegas with sun, fun and gambling, although the city has made an effort in recent years to change their reputation as a fun city to more of a city which accommodates families. The good news is this means Las Vegas has a lot to offer at a much less expensive price tag. This is a perfect vacation in which to utilise rewards credit cards for either redemption or to build up credits for the next holiday.

Many of the casinos and hotels are now reaching out to families on vacation and offer rides and attractions geared toward kids. Most notable are the roller coasters at the Sahara and New York New York. Additionally, there are free shows at many of the resorts and casinos from a stunning pirate battle at Treasure Island to a battle of dragons and wizards at Caeser’s. At night, the volcano at the Mirage is beautiful and entertaining. Outside the city, the Hoover Dam is educational and breath-taking and a great place to take the kids for an outing.

Of course, a visit to Las Vegas is not complete without a visit to some of the most famous casinos in the world. The architecture alone is enough of a reason to visit the biggest and the best of Las Vegas such as the MGM Grand or the Bellagio, but for those hoping to gamble and win within a tight budget, the casinos downtown are typically much less expensive and many of them offer $1 and $2 minimums.

All-you-can-eat buffets are everywhere in Las Vegas. Some of the best deals are found off the Strip and in the downtown area. Dining out can strain the budget, but Main Street Station and the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas offers good food at a reasonable price. The Rio, located just off the Strip, provides two different buffets that are definitely worth a trip. On the Strip, both Bally’s and Flamingo’s have budget-friendly buffet options.

Keep an eye out for coupons offering 2 for 1 deals on food, drinks and casino play. Older casinos are usually quick to give out incentives to visit their facility. Many casinos will provide a coupon booklet upon arrival with deeply discounted activities. If you are planning to gamble consider using a cashback credit card to save money on money you may not get back. Before embarking on a vacation in Las Vegas, check over the websites of the places on the list to visit to find online deals exclusive to an online presence. With a little advanced planning, there’s a lot of fun to be found on a holiday to Las Vegas which can save money and fit into almost any budget.

This was a guest post by mbna.co.uk

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New York on a Shoestring

New York City needs no introduction. It is one of the most famous cities in the world, and most people equate this with one of the most expensive. While it is true a budget can be strained to the maximum with a visit to this historical and cosmopolitan city, it is also true the best parts of it can be seen within almost any budget. The key is to look a little bit off the beaten path and utilize the advantages of a rewards credit card to score some great deals. Air miles credit cards make flying in and out of New York City a lot easier on the budget, as well.

Billed as the “city that never sleeps”, New York has a ton of free opportunities to explore at little or no charge. It is a city steeped in history, as evidenced by places like the Coney Island Historical Project. It features historical artefacts from Coney Island’s colourful past such as the Steeplechase horse that gave Steeplechase Park its name, Sunday walking tours and an exhibition of films, folk art and wonders from Wonder Wheel Park. Admission is free.

Free on Wednesdays, the New York Botanical Garden is spread over 50 acres just north of the Bronx Zoo. The outdoor rose garden is magnificent, with a restored conservatory of a Victorian style which has become a famous landmark. If art is of interest, the galleries in Chelsea are all free and Thursday evenings are a good time to take advantage of wine and cheese tastings. The Green-Wood Cemetery was once the most visited tourist attraction outside of Niagara Falls, and features Brooklyn’s highest point at Battle Hill, the site from the Revolutionary War marked today by a statue of the Roman goddess, Minerva.

New York City has always been a melting pot of a wide diversity of culture. For a small fee or even free, visits to the Japan Society, the National Museum of the American Indian and the Hispanic Society of America Museum and Library provide a small taste of that diversity. Over 100 years old, the New York Public Library houses a copy of the original Declaration of Independence, the Gutenberg bible and much, much more and totally worth a visit just for its breath-taking architecture.

No trip to New York City is complete without a visit to the Statue of Liberty. Although tours do require a small fee, commuters can ride the ferry free of charge. In fact, the Staten Island Ferry has held the distinction of being the single greatest free attraction on the Eastern Seaboard. There’s a lot to see and do in this magnificent city, most of which will fit quite nicely no matter how tight the budget.

This was a guest post by mbna.ie

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A How-To Guide For The New York Antitourist

Our friends at Roomorama have offered some rather useful tips on how NOT to behave like a tourist in New York. Read on!

New Yorkers are a discerning brood –one hair out of place and we can spot them from a mile away.  Tourists, that is.  And it’s true that New Yorkers hold a particular level of contempt for all things touristy, particularly during the May through September months when it seems like every fanny-pack wearing, sneaker-clad crowd has plopped themselves directly in the middle of anywhere we need to be.  Naturally, this makes us a little crazy –and since we’re not a shy bunch, we tend to get a bit vocal in our disdain.  For you, reader, we’ve compiled a list of helpful tips on how to blend with the crowd –a prized ability, as any local will tell you- and make the most of your time in the self-christened Greatest City In The World.

Orienting Yourself In This Wonderful Town

The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down.  You also have the Hudson River to your west and the East River to your…east.  Crossing the East River will get you into Brooklyn from Downtown Manhattan or Queens from Midtown via the Brooklyn and Queensboro Bridges, respectively.  (There’s also the Manhattan and the Williamsburg and the –well, baby steps for now).  There are a few ways to get into New Jersey by crossing the Hudson, but you don’t need to know them because Step 1: you hate New Jersey.

The Grid

At its most simple, New York is a giant grid with streets running east and west and avenues running north and south.  These are true directions too, so if your compass points north and you follow it, then hurrah! You’re walking uptown.  The grid is split in half by Fifth Avenue. -everything to the west of 5th is the West Side and to the east is the East Side.  Central Park starts at 59th Street and also marks the beginning of the Upper East Side (UES) from 5th Avenue to the East River and the Upper West Side (UWS) from Central Park West to the Hudson River.  Another helpful tip:  All streets in NYC are one-way, with few exceptions. The oddly numbered avenues run south, the evens run north.  SO, if you’re standing at 7th Avenue at 14th St, and you want to walk north to 15th, simply walk against the traffic.

 

Getting Around Town

 

New York is a walking city, and we walk fast.  Fun fact:  parking yourself in the middle of the sidewalk to try and orient yourself is not a good idea. It will make people around you angry, and some of them (those not looking up from texting, ipading etc.), might just walk into you.  To avoid that, step to the side when you’re slowing your pace.  Letting others walk through will earn you a gold star and someone not yelling at you.   Also, a map will not tell you anything a local won’t. We may seem scary, but we’re more willing to help than you’d think –especially if that removes you and your guidebook-clutching companions from the middle of the sidewalk.

Tourists left, locals right!

Tourists left, locals right!

Using the subway (efficient, cheap, glorious) is the second most popular means of transportation, followed by bus (slow, but comprehensive).  Both run around the clock, cost the same and accept the same form of payment (metrocard).  A word to the wise:  when entering a crowded subway or bus, walk away from the doors before settling in to avoid crowding at points of entry.  New Yorkers will thank you (and maybe even think you’re one of them)!

Taxis, while more expensive, are still affordable and if it’s not rush hour (5-7 PM on weekdays, save Friday which is simply hellish at all times), will almost certainly deliver you to your destination more quickly than public transportation.  I’m about to share with you an invaluable piece of information, which my friends will probably get mad at me for. This is how you know if a cab is available: Lights on in middle = available.  Lights on sides only = occupied.  All lights on = off duty, but sometimes you can negotiate with the driver if he’s headed in your direction anyway.

Finding A Place To Stay

New York has two particularly commercial zones; the downtown Financial District (no one actually calls it “FiDi”) and Midtown  (west of 5th Avenue stretching through Times Square, roughly).  Though this is changing, these are where the larger hotels tend to concentrate.  Because of this, these two neighborhoods tend to not be very “New Yorkish” –or they epitomize New York, depending on how you look at it.  One thing is for sure, the tourist traps in these two neighborhoods are unavoidable.   But!  If a double-decker bus tour, dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp, and a pay-per-view movie is what you seek on your vacation, then look no further, you’ve reached your destination.

If, however, that description makes your want to gouge your eyes out as much as it does me mine, consider a short-term rental like those found at Roomorama. Unlike commercial chains and even boutique hotels, renting an apartment allows you to be in a strictly residential neighborhood, where the true locals live. This affords you the opportunity to develop the habits of a local –drink from their coffee shops and stop in their book stores, eat at their restaurants and drink at their bars.  It’s an immersive experience and it’s one that happens to be less expensive than staying in a hotel-zoned area, where you are being charged an arm for both your miniscule space and various sub-par entertainment offerings.  Not so great.

 

Now, get going!

 

We think that we’ve given you enough background knowledge to let you loose without fearing for your sanity.  Go see! Do! Explore!  Avoid at all costs The Statue Of Liberty, The Empire State Building and Times Square. Make sure you visit the Met or the Guggenheim.  Walk along the Hudson, but not by the Intrepid.  Visit Battery and Central Parks.  Eat Italian food, but not in Little Italy. Gallery hop in Chelsea! Enjoy some reflexology in Chinatown. Shop the Lower East Side.  Try a food truck or ten in Madison Square Park. Buy local at the delicious Union Square Greenmarket.  Sample the Hester Street Fair! A final request, from me and everyone else: Leave your fanny pack behind.  Please.

If you have any New York or Roomorama related questions, please feel free to email Lindsey Piscitell, the author of this post, at lindsey@roomorama.com.

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Cheap Flights: Is it still possible to bag a bargain?

 

As fuel prices increase and environmental credentials weigh heavy, airport levies have snuck up, which beggars the question – is the cheap flight extinct?

The birth of the budget air carrier opened up the cheap travel market to broaden the holiday horizons for all manner of intrepid tourist – not only were costs slashed, but the random pricing schemes meant we ended up in European cities we’d never before considered holiday destinations. As long as the flight was under £10 – all in – we were pretty much happy to go anywhere and splash our surplus travel money or use a travel credit card.

In recent years however, the big names in cheap air travel have attempted to counter fuel increases and flight costs by slashing services – alongside paying for seat reservation, refreshments and holdall baggage, there were rumours that one carrier was going to start running a ‘standing only’ service which would allow more passengers on the plane and therefore reduce costs.

Whilst this is very commendable of them – it has changed the entire structure of purchasing low cost flights – in the good old days the customer only had to account for taxes on top of the actual flight cost, these days there’s all manner of additional expenses that impact massively on the final price of a cheap flight.

On one very well known Irish carrier an initial £8 flight is actually £8 each way, subject to an admin fee of £5, priority boarding fee of £4 each way, and £15 per 15kg bag each way – plus, restrictions on taking more than 100ml of liquid on planes will mean that refreshments will no doubt be purchased on board. This means that a return flight originally advertised at the bargain price of £8 actually amounts to at least £107.

The common misconception is that reasonably priced flights are only available via budget carriers and this is something that the industry has capitalised on. As with any purchase, the buyer needs to wield purchase power and do their research to ensure they get the best bang for their buck.

On 22 February 2011 we ran a price comparison with two big name carriers – one budget and one not. The comparison was made on a return flight from London Gatwick to Naples, Italy, out on the 19 March and returning on the 26 March. The budget carrier, inclusive of baggage fee and priority boarding, came in at £171.61; the non budget carrier, which includes baggage, online check-in and refreshments as standard, came in at a competitive £127.00.

So, it seems that cheap(ish) flights are still available, but the key to bagging a bargain is to shop about – independently rather than just via comparison sites. Don’t assume that because a company presents itself as ‘affordable’ that it necessarily offers the most competitive deals.

This was a guest post by postoffice.co.uk.

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