Category Archives: Travel Tips

Camping Destinations

I remember my first camping trip. I was seven years old and spent a thrilling weekend swapping ghost stories with my classmates in the evening next tot the bonfire while we stuffed our faces with roasted marshmallows. When it was time to go to sleep, I had to contain my excitement as I huddled inside my new tent listening to the woodlands alive with the sound of the night creatures and the occasional snapping of tree branches.

Camping, may be as simple as pitching a tent in your backyard or something as rugged as sleeping against jagged rocks, should always be a whole new outdoor experience each time. Let Holiday Backpack show you the five best places to travel to where you can set up camp and create your own unforgettable camping experiences.

1. Sahale Glacier Camp, Washington

If you’re looking for a relatively simple climb that will end with a stunning panoramic view of the Cascade Pass peaks, you might want to try the popular route up Sahale Peak via the Sahale Arm and Sahale Glacier. A gentle, sloping ascent down Sahale Arm will bring you into the middle of meadows exploding with lupine, Indian paintbrush and other wildflowers. After a final ascent, you will reach a ridge where the Sahale Glacier Camp is located. There you can pitch your tent and spend a night experiencing the true majesty of the North Cascades.

2. Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru

Experience one of the best alpine trails in the world by trekking Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash. Satisfy your lust for a hard and exhilarating hike amongst jagged mountains, azure lakes and vast skies and get lost in the Peruvian summits. One of the unique attractions about the Huayhuash landscape are the friendly locals who abound in the area. You not only experience a true alpine mountain paradise peppered with edelweiss and purple lupine, but you also get a touch of culture if you attempt to go trekking alongside Peruvian farmers or camp at any of the villages.

3. Lake Myvatn, Iceland

Considered as the most dramatic and beautiful place in Iceland, Lake Myvatn is a breathtaking place with amazing lava fields and unique rock formations. Camping by Lake Myvatn also means experiencing unique bubbling mud flats, lunaresque volcanic craters, newborn lava fields and even grassy shoals teeming with waterfowl. The land surrounding the lake is marked with several Pseudo craters and dotted with geothermal activity. During the summer, a sheer variety of birds flock the surrounding areas making it also a choice camping destination for bird watching enthusiasts.

4. Tree Camping in Waldseilgarten, Germany
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If you’re up for an extreme camping adventure, you might want to try out Tree Camping in Waldseilgarten, a mountain resort in Bavaria, Germany. Although there is a variety of camping ground options at the resort, sleeping 6,000 feet in the air and waking up to an amazing sunset view as you hang from a cliff or a tree is one for the bucket list. Aside from the usual trekking activities where you can enjoy the plush mountain greenery, you can also partake in other extreme activities available such as tree swinging and zip lining.

5. Bay of Fires, Australia
australia1

The campsites at Bay of Fires are wild and rugged and are some of the most beautiful spots in Tasmania. You can camp anywhere along its long curve of pristine white sandy beaches that are generally deserted and you can stay for up to weeks for free. There is no trekking nor hiking involved, instead you can go fishing, surfing, diving and snorkeling. Massive granite boulders with characteristic red orange lichen surround the whole area, where wildlife like kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and black cockatoos abound.

Cheap Weekend Getaways from the UK

How does a weekend getaway to Amsterdam for 29 pounds sound to you? Like its too good to be true? Well, its not. That’s all you’ll pay for transport and a private in suite room on one of DFDS Seaways “Mini Cruises” to Amsterdam. Truth be told, that rock bottom rate is an “early bird special” reserved for groups of four or more, but still – it’s a hell of a deal. I’m pretty sure you can grab three of your mates or make a couple’s weekend out of it if you want, or better yet a stag or hen party.

The mini cruise to Amsterdam is a two-nights–at–sea affair, which includes a stop in Amsterdam where you can spend a half-day doing what you please. Half a day in Amsterdam really isn’t an ideal amount of time for a two-day trip, but the cruise ship, which has cabins for up to 1500 people, is part of the escape. After all, the plan is to get out the UK for a weekend.

In an innovative piece of PR, DFDS actually decided to produce an online app, which discusses some of the many plus points associated with taking a relaxing cruise. The app can be found here:if you are interested in checking it out. I’ll cover a few of what I thought the key points they brought up were in the next few paragraphs.

DFDS ships have loads of entertainment much like the massive luxury cruise liners that ply the waters of the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. This includes numerous bars and clubs with a wide range of entertainment. For the footy fans they have a sports bar, for those who want a chill atmosphere and easy conversation there’s a laid back lounge and for the partiers among us there’s a dance club and a club with live music.

In addition to the bars and clubs, there’s a vast array of restaurants, shops, cafes and even a few cinemas. I brought a couple of books and my iPad for the cruise thinking it would be a good chance to relax, catch up on my favorite TV series, and maybe even crack into a novel, but in the end I just found myself eating, drinking and partying with friends the whole time. Then we found ourselves in Amsterdam and carried on where we left off.

It turns out DFDS Seaways also has loads of great ferry deals connecting the UK to France, The Netherlands, and Denmark, as well as connections across the Baltic between various Scandinavian states. They also have loads of group deals for conferences, youth and school trips as well as hen and stag parties. All in all they do a pretty solid job and are well worth a look, especially if you want to catch a weekend escape on one of their Mini Cruises.

Budget Travel Tips for Europe

Travelling around Europe is an unforgettable experience, whether you’re exploring the beautiful narrow streets of Lisbon, tucking into a delicious pizza in Naples or enjoying a romantic weekend in Paris. This diversity of culture and tradition is unique to Europe, and there are a lot of cheap flights to be found nowadays. However, if you are not travel savvy, then there are risks that you could put a real dent in your wallet – with the average family holiday to Europe costing around £2,000. Fortunately, there are cost-effective tips which will allow you to have the best experience possible whilst keeping some money in the bank!

1. Finding a Great Flight

It is beneficial to book your flights in advance in order to locate the best airline deals; there are many flight packages which can be found for discounted prices. Do some comparative online research on websites such as cheapflights.com. You can save a lot of money by booking flights as a group and knowing which seasons allow you to book the cheapest flights.

2. Make Use of Public Transport

If you’re travelling on a budget, it’s safe to assume you won’t be taking a cab between your destinations. It is a great idea to learn about the public transportation system in each city you visit, as many cities offer short-term travel passes for public transportation. An alternative option would be to rent a bicycle and explore the city; for example, this would be perfect if you were travelling to Amsterdam, whereby cycling is a fundamental part of their culture. By taking the time to do this, it would be possible to save an astronomical amount of money.

3. Choosing Your Hotel

Selecting the right hotel is always challenging – does it have a pool? Is it located near a beach, a bar or an airport? Is it affordable? To solve these pressing questions, it is advisable to visit a hotel comparison website such as Trivago. These companies offer reviews on almost every reputable hotel in Europe, which will allow you to make an informed decision on the cheapest and most tailored hotel to suit your holiday. It is just as important to get the best deals on airport hotels in the UK. Recently, it has become increasingly common for tourists to stop-off at airport hotels in order to the reduce the stress of travelling. It is highly advisable that, for example, you identify the best deals on gatwick airport hotels via a quality provider, before travelling to Europe.

spend less on your travel

4. Prevent Waste Whilst Enjoying the Taste

By now, if you have followed the travelling tips suggested, then you will have saved a lot of money on your airfare, local travel and accommodation. However, unfortunately, you have checked your balance back home and realised you have reached your credit card limit. What is to blame? Restaurants bills. Most tourist do not know where or what to eat. If you don’t pay attention to the cost of your meals, you will waste the majority of your budget. Fear not, by using restaurant guides to research the prices in advance, or by visiting local markets that offer fresh, affordable food, you can prevent wasting money whilst still enjoying the taste of European culture.

5. City Passes

Most of the beautiful and vibrant European cities offer passes which allow you to access various key attractions. If you are seeking a highly cultural trip then these all-in-one passes are the perfect companion, allowing you to get the most out of your holiday for the lowest prices. For example, if you were taking your family to visit Rome, instead of separately paying for access to the Colosseum, the Vatican or the Pantheon; it would make cost-effective sense to purchase a city pass.

6. Family Packages

Who said that travelling with your children was expensive? Most attractions offer large discounts for children and teenagers, so purchase a family package deal for your airfare and accommodation. Give them life-long memories without breaking your budget!

7. Travel on Weekdays

Trains, flights and attraction tickets tend to be more expensive during weekends, so plan your trip to fall on a weekday to avoid the crowds and extra-fees. Travelling between Monday-Friday will save you a lot of hassle.

how to travel in budget

8. Cost-effective Airport Parking

If your journey to the airport requires you to drive, then it is highly recommendable to choose a form of cost-effective airport parking. This does not take much time at all, for example, you can purchase Stansted parking from Holiday Extras from around £8.25 per day in a matter of minutes; which could save you enough money to afford one more night out at your favourite tapas bar in Barcelona. Overall, it makes sense to save money and ensure the security of your vehicle for the duration of your holiday.

9. Travel Insurance

It is vital to have travel insurance, but often you can be faced with overpriced offerings which attempt to make money through fear factor. Essentially, when travelling around Europe, your best friend is the European Health Insurance Card – this will cover most medical costs. However, if you suffer from Diabetes or another kind of serious medical condition, contact the relevant organisation, such as ehicplus.com to receive a specific low-cost offering to cover the extras the standard EHIC card does not.

Bon Voyage!

Hopefully you have followed these travelling tips and are fully-prepared to get the most out of your holiday to Europe, whilst cutting-out all of the unnecessary costs. We would love to hear about your holiday experiences and your own money-saving tips which can be shared around the travelling community – have a fantastic time!

To Call BS or Not?

So, we can guess that Shakespeare knew at least a thing or two about bullshit, and he phrases his put down here wonderfully well – I wish I could shut someone down as gracefully as that. Normally I just say “bullshit”, and then get vigorously told off by someone who knows a lot more about the subject than me. I’m working on caution, but I can’t say I’ve mastered it just yet.

Point is; eventually when you’re travelling around the place somebody’s going to tell you some bullshit. They might not know if it is or isn’t true. You certainly won’t. But, just like truth can be stranger than fiction; fiction can be much more entertaining than truth. Here are a couple of stories that I was told by the locals that, like all good bullshit, are mixed with the truth. It’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends, but however you look at it, they’re great stories and it’s fun to believe, sometimes. As Shakespeare said:

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her though I know she lies

So, my first wonderful example of the very best kind of bullshit was told to me by an Italian man during a long wait at Venice’s train station. He complimented his bad English beautifully with enormous, Italian hand gestures and helped both of us pass the time in what would have otherwise been a long and boring wait.

He told me that during the time of the Crusades, the cunning Doge (Duke) of Venice offered transport to crusading armies across the Mediterranean, to do his part in the Crusades. However, (and here’s where it gets iffy) the Doge took the crusaders to Constantinople, which was at war with Venice, and told the Crusaders they were in the Holy Land. The Crusaders, gullible fools, attacked the city and captured it within the month. Then, the clever Venetians took them back to Europe, patting them on the back, muttering some variant of “good job lads, we’ll take it from here”.

Thus, the land of Constantinople came under the control of the Republic of Venice. At least, that’s what I heard. I’ve refused to do any research on the subject: much as I’d like to know more, I want to enjoy the story as it is. See what you can find out, if you’re curious.

My second fun-fiction occurs a few hundred years later, and quite close by in global terms. This was told to me by a very kind, enormously drunk Bulgarian man who called himself “The Duke”, strangely enough. Whilst I waited for a train change in Sofia to take me to Prague from Istanbul, he told me his variant on the Legend of King Dracula, or, as my Bulgarian man called him, Vlad the Impaler. Rumour goes that Vlad was incredibly cruel to his Ottoman enemies in the south, and used to execute them by jamming a stake into their, erm, rectum and then leaving the stakes there till they died. Nasty stuff, and generally recognised as true by historians.

My Bulgarian had a different variant. Apparently, old King Vlad was much nicer than history teaches us, and was actually just the subject and inventor of a Blackadder-style cunning plan. Vlad encouraged rumours of his nasty treatment of his enemies in order to scare them away from ever actually attacking, therefore saving many lives on what would have otherwise been a long and difficult war. It’s obviously difficult to tell which one’s right now – if it was a good enough lie, it would look just like the truth.

The only advice I can give you for these stories is to visit and see if you can find out for yourself. Or collect your own “bullshit” story – there’s plenty to go around. Remember Shakespeare – believe her though you know she lies – it’s much more fun.

Top Beaches to Visit this Upcoming October

It’s not too late to be thinking about a spontaneous October half term holiday with the kids and with plenty of beach holidays with Neilson available, you can start dreaming about a lazy week in the sun, topping up your tan and watching your children have a fabulous time on the sand.

With free kids clubs in many resorts to keep them entertained for hours and an abundance of activities to keep you all happy, October half term breaks may be selling fast but there’s still chance you and your brood could be enjoying one too.

So, where to go? At this time of year, you can’t always guarantee great weather in the popular Mediterranean hotspots closer to home, but heading a little further, to Greece or Turkey, will mean a better guarantee of sunshine, dry weather and an unforgettable time.

Adakoy

Situated in Turkey, this resort occupies its own stretch of private beach within a protected natural park – you can’t get better than that, can you! Worlds apart from its neighbour, Marmaris, you can enjoy tranquillity, relaxation and as many activities as you wish, including dinghy sailing, paddleboarding, windsurfing and mountain biking.

summer holiday best place

Teos

The beachclub in Teos offers a touch of traditional Turkey, with authentic cuisine, picturesque sights and pretty walks. With a wide range of activities available, you and the family will be able to stay as active as you like – if you can tear yourself away from the fantastic pool, that is!

best place to visit in summer

Sivota

Characterised by white wash buildings that are typical of Greek retreats, Sivota is located on the west coast of mainland Greece and is home to a huge number of pristine beaches and clear waters. The beach club is an idyllic retreat and perfect for as an activity-filled break. From waterskiing and wakeboarding to mountain biking and walks aplenty, there’s something for everyone here.

Don’t just sit around for October half term – treat your family to a pre-Christmas holiday in the sun!

Last Minute Summer Tan locations

My European summer is coming to an end, and in a final act of angry defiance and without any more preamble, here’s five of the best places to visit to still get a tan in Europe. Godspeed.

Croatia. Lovely, cheap, and still very sunny, Croatia’s my number one choice to still get some rays. The beaches are still lovely and the season’s coming to an end; so everything will be even cheaper than it already is and the beaches will be nowhere near as busy as they were a month ago. Make sure to visit the islands just off the coast in one of the many day trips that are available from Rijeka – a lovely city with a hilly backdrop from the coast.
Spain. Specifically, the south coast or the plains in the country. By the by, the rain in Spain hardly ever falls on the plain – it falls on the mountains in the north, just like it does everywhere else in the world, as explained wonderfully tersely in this Wikipedia article. You can detect the righteous scientific anger in whoever wrote that. Isn’t it beautiful? Much like Spain itself (I know, I know, that was cheap). Make sure to eat as much food as you possibly can – nobody does holiday food like the Spaniards. Nobody mentioned getting themselves a beach body, did they?
Malta. This lovely little island has a vast amount to offer. If you feel like it, buy a tent and visit one of the campsites near the beach – it’ll be cheaper than a hotel and sometimes it’s great fun, particularly in the weather they’re still lucky enough to have. Make sure to take a wine tour, too. Maltese wine is in enormous demand throughout the world and if you can afford it, it might be sensible to invest in a bottle which will increase in value over the years.
Crete. This lovely island has a tonne of history – it’s been conquered and re-conquered by more civilisations than you could shake a stick at. You can see why they all bothered – Crete is beautiful, and is bound to still be as sunny and lovely now as it was two months ago. The different civilisations’ effect on the architecture and culture of the island is evident, and easy to see. Make sure to visit some of the many archaeological sites here, particularly the ancient city of Knossos – site of the famous labyrinth of the Minotaur. If you haven’t heard of it (for shame), read about it here.
Southern Italy. Go to the boot heel. The area round here is unlike the rest of Italy – it’s still a beautiful place, but travelling here is more in tune with the wildlife and nature of the country, as opposed to the city-hopping that most Italian adventures are (quite rightly) defined by. Having said that, Lecce has to be up there as one of the best Italian towns in the country. Make sure to visit. Here, the pizzas are the best in the world – they were invented near here, after all; and the sun shines for at least another month. Giving you, dear reader, enough time to have that last bit of holiday I’m sure you deserve.

If you don’t like the sound of any of this, just jump in a sun bed instead. Sure, you’ll be orange, and won’t really have the same experience as you would as the places I’ve listed; but it will be a damn sight cheaper. Your call, but I think we can guess what one I’d suggest.

Traveling Phone Advice

Phones are a constant, annoying, frustrating uphill battle when travelling – I find myself wasting days in internet cafes sending emails and social-media-ing when I really don’t need to be, just because my phone isn’t doing what I want it to do. And even if it did do what I wanted it to do, I’d be charged through the nose for it.

I remember I was once in Istanbul when my Blackberry, unsurprisingly in hindsight, broke completely. At the time I was in negotiations with my bank attempting to explain to them that when I said I was going travelling I did, indeed, mean travelling to more than one country. Fortunately, there’s a road in Istanbul for everything, and I picked up a lovely, hardy Nokia for about $40 (phones haven’t had time to depreciate much there) which worked pretty well for the rest of the trip. That didn’t stop me being charged a painful amount every time I made a phone call or sent a text, and God help you if you accidentally click the “internet” icon (that’s what was particularly so good about the Nokia).

The best deal I’ve managed to find so far as far as a contract goes is Vodafone’s “Eurotraveller” deal – $6 a day plus normal network fees and you can call and text from the rest of Europe as much as you like. It’s not ideal though – $6 a day still makes me wince a little, and I haven’t dared to use the internet. As far as the rest of the world goes, I just try to turn my phone off and keep it off as much as possible – I just assumed that was the way it would have to go every time I travelled.

But I forgot! We live in the modern world, with technology and smartphones and apps and clever, helpful stuff round every corner. This week’s clever, helpful stuff that I’ve stumbled upon is a couple of clever apps from a company called Rebtel. The Rebtel app gives users a fighting chance against international phones bills by working through a web or SMS-based app. There’s a few different ways to do it, but as far as texting goes, you want to have a look at their international texting page.

Texting’s not the only thing they’re good for either – their calling system works much the same way and again saves me a hell of a lot of money when I’m travelling. Rebtel’s call app is available for the Android (I have an Android, so I know that one) and, after a quick Google… yes! it’s available for the iPhone, iPad, Windows phone and various other platforms too. You can download a free calling app here.

I wouldn’t like to estimate how much money Rebtel’s saved me because it’ll sound sensationalist – I am a travel writer, after all – but it will save anyone who’s hoping to go travelling and stay in contact with people back home (or perhaps more importantly, people they’re travelling with). Rebtel comes very, very highly recommended. Get it.

Why You Need to Own a Caravan

1. Freedom to go (and sleep!) wherever you want

As an avid hiker and camper who can’t stand gigantic motor homes occupying scarce camping spots at national parks, I’m often envious of fellow adventurers who own a caravan. If you think about, you almost always have to drive to wherever you’re going to hike and camp – so why not pull a small caravan and have an excellent little base to work out of? When you need a solid nights rest, respite from the heat or cold, or a sheltered place to cook your food, a caravan is blessing. You can leave it parked with your car while you go out on back country hikes and come back to it a few days later to rest and recharge. Just be sure to get it insured! Just like your car, it can get broken into or stolen. I’ve had my car broken into last summer when I left it parked off a remote country road in Utah while I was back country hiking and camping for a few days. Thank god for insurance, replaced my broken window and ripped out stereo. If you ever need insurance, take a look at the Caravan Club website.

2. Affordability

Caravans can be cheap, much cheaper than motor homes. You can easily find a used caravan in decent quality for a few thousand dollars or less. These are typically older and have a great retro look to them. In my opinion, this is ideal – cheap, cool looking and basic. Check out Gumtree.com for an excellent selection of affordable vintage caravans.

If you feel like springing a little extra cash you can get something really nice. In fact, there are caravans that aren’t much different from a motor home. Massive lorry sized beasts with full on kitchens, showers, living rooms and bathrooms. For me that’s a bit much – both in terms of my needs and my wallet – but if you’ve got it and your one for creature comforts…by all means. Thing is, when they’re that big you’ll need a solid truck to pull it. Most small sized caravans you can pull with a compact or even subcompact car!

3. Caravan Culture

Lets be honest, everyone loves a guy with a caravan, especially a vintage looking caravan. Think about any music festival you’ve ever been too. Who’s got it better than the guy with a caravan? Like I said, it’s an excellent space to base your self out of for a few days. You can haul more gear, more food, more beer and whatever else you fancy in a caravan than you can in a car alone. And you have a real place to sleep with walls that can at least partially block out the constant festival noise, lights and weird smells going on around you. Plus, a caravan gives you a little more privacy than a tent, should you need it 😉

On top of festival appeal of caravans, most countries in Europe and states in the US have caravan clubs that you can join and meet likeminded people. It’s much like the boathouse culture in the UK and northern Europe. They all get a long and have a great little community that is ready-built around the caravan life style. I’m not saying you have to live in your caravan, but you probably could! Certainly some people do.

The Best Holiday Destination

The most overlooked holiday destination is your own backyard. It is the one place that you can escape to all year round, yet most people forget that it even exists. Instead people spend time in front of the TV, living their dreams through other peoples existence. Yet the strange thing is that wherever you happen to be in the world, you will find someone dreaming about taking a holiday where you live.

holiday on your own country

You know, there is actually a large chance that you will have seen less of the tourist attractions in your region than someone who has taken a holiday around where you live. In fact, to prove my point, the next time you meet a foreign person walking around ask them where they’ve visited. You will almost certainly listen to a list of places that you’ve considered going to, but decided against it because that what’s the point (after all you live there and could visit these places whenever you want to).local vacation ideas

This aversion to exploring your own back yard is a strange and unfortunate phenomenon. Watching the TV or browsing the Internet you will see plenty of amazing holiday destinations and then start imagining yourself doing things that you’d never consider doing at home (like taking a walk down the beach). Most people just take what is around them for granted. However, as the sun comes out around Europe and the temperatures start to heat up, it is the time to start reminding yourself what makes the place you live in so special.

local holiday

So here’s an idea. If you live in the countryside then take a walk through the fields or go hiking on the highlands or trekking through a forest. Explore the city you live in and visit some of the most famous tourist attractions (there is a reason people come from all over the world to see these places). The best thing about where you live though is that you know all the best places to visit and those secret gems that the tourists have never heard of. Be careful though if you decide to explore your neighborhood, you might find yourself having a better time than you had sitting in front of the TV!

Costa Tours

For over 60 years, Costa Cruises has delivered Italian-style cruise holidays to some of the world’s most beautiful and soul-stirring locations. From the Spanish coast to Dubai, the Caribbean to Egypt’s vibrant Red Sea, it’s no wonder this long-established cruise brand continues to draw customers back to its gleaming ships and packed itineraries one year after another.

So where can you travel with Costa Cruises? The real question is, where can’t you travel?

During the winter months, when it’s cold and drizzly back home, you could enjoy a winter warmer in the western Mediterranean, taking in the delights of Agadir and Casablanca in Morocco, the bustling Spanish city of Barcelona, Ajaccio in Corsica and the beautiful landscapes of southern Sardinia. A new addition to the winter itineraries is the Canary Islands, so look out for sun-baked voyages with Costa Cruises to the volcanic islands of Tenerife and the likes of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, as well as opportunities to visit some of the smaller islands surrounding these popular holiday hotspots.

If you fancy travelling a little further afield, a quick look at the Costa Cruises website will serve up all sorts of different ideas on your next escape. How about Brazil and Argentina in South America, or a mesmerising jaunt to such eastern splendours as Dubai, Egypt, Aqaba in Jordan, and Israel’s beautiful Red Sea town of Eilat.

And of course who could forget the endless charm and desert island-style beaches of the Caribbean? Visit breathtaking Barbados, explore the Dominican Republic or discover the ancient Mayan heritage and golden sands of Mexico’s Caribbean Coast.