Holiday or helliday?

Holidays are good for you they say.

Only, it seems, my colleagues didn’t get the memo. They’re back in the office post summer break but, amazingly you might think, no happier than before they went away.

Prior to booking they were all, invariably, looking forward to a break from the office, a good rest and the chance to let their hair down... so what happened?

It transpires that the planning proved too much for one co-worker. “Searching for flights on Sky-scanner - who soon clocked onto my proposed holiday plans and dates which resulted in rocketing prices  - wasn’t fun,” said Shana. “Nor was trawling through tonnes of hotel reviews on TripAdvisor, which left me feeling more confused than ever.”

For another, working 15 hour days pre- holiday in a bid to clear his in-box at work, saw him board his flight for Colombia looking and feeling like a wreck. Something not helped by the email he received while en-route to the airport to say that his flight time had changed and he would now be taking off six hours later than scheduled.

Then on arrival - if you’re anything like the average stressed out Londoner who, statistics show, now work longer days than anyone else in the country, clocking in three extra weeks per year - it’s almost impossible to instantly switch into 'holiday mode' upon reaching your destination.

And invariably you will have packed all the wrong things something my mate Kate, can attest to. A sensible doctor by day, Kate couldn’t fathom what had possessed her to pack 17 pairs of shoes for a recent beach trip together with her gym kit, despite barely making it to the gym back home.

Then there’s the thorny issue of who to travel with… Travelling together can be intense and can either make or break relationships. Going in a group isn’t necessarily any easier. The worst trip I ever had was with two ‘friends’ to Mexico - we ended ended up falling out over food, finance and pretty much everything under the sun - so don’t be daunted by the prospect of solo travel.

And what about the weather which can rarely be relied on in this day and age? Last month, Louise spent a rainy fortnight (and small fortune) in France while back home, Britain baked in the hottest summer solstice ever...

All of the aforementioned for a few brief moments abroad when you feel refreshed and able to cope with whatever life throws at you -  only for this feeling to dissipate as soon as you land back in London and the emails from your boss with the subject line ‘Urgent action required’ start flooding your in-box…

Shana summed up the agony succinctly when she said: “Quite frankly it was all enough to make me wish I had stayed put on the sofa.”

Perhaps Samuel Johnson was right after all:

"Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

Spain reigns for Easter getaways

TravelSupermarket has revealed the nation’s favourite Easter holiday destinations

When it comes to Easter breaks, the sunny shores of Spain and its islands have emerged as the favourite destination for Brits, according to new research.

The Canary Islands of Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura all made it into the top five of Travelsupermarket’s most searched for destinations this Easter.

In fact, seven of the top 10 searches for Easter holidays this year were Spanish destinations -   a marked improvement from 2016 when Spanish destinations made up just four out of 10 of the top Easter holiday searches.

The news comes in the same week that World Golf Awards announced La Manga – a piece of land that separates the Mediterranean Sea from the Mar Menor in south east Spain - has been chosen to host World Golf Awards Gala Ceremony 2017.

Now in its fourth year, World Golf Awards recognises and celebrates the crème de la crème in golf tourism, world class course and golf destinations from across the globe. The awards, voted for by golfers worldwide, aim to raise the bar for golf experiences and sit as part of the World Travel Awards which have been rewarding quality across the leisure and tourism sector for 24 years.

World Golf Awards Gala Ceremony 2017 will be held at the five-star La Manga Club – one of the world’s most popular golf and leisure resorts from the 23-26 November 2017.

Emma Morris, spokesperson at TravelSupermarket, said: “For many, Easter marks the first proper getaway of the year. It is no surprise that [Brits] are seeking out some sun in well-known Spanish favourites. The pound may have taken a hit against the euro in recent times, however, destinations such as the Canary Islands, the Balearics and mainland Spain still offer great value for money for a sunshine getaway.

For those that are still considering a last-minute getaway, Morris has some reassuring news: “If you’re yet to book, if you search online and compare prices, there are some good deals still available for Easter. For example, a family of four can still book to go to Lanzarote or Tenerife for less than £300 per person.”

See you in Spain…

Where the experts holiday: Reza Pakravan, traveller, adventurer and film maker

Reza Pakravan holds the Guinness World Record for crossing the Sahara desert by bicycle: his preferred mode of transport. He has also cycled the Annapurna Circuit, the length of the planet from Norway to South Africa, and through the Amazon rainforest along the Trans-Amazonian Highway. In 2012, Reza was listed among the world’s top 20 most seasoned travellers by Men’s Fitness magazine. Reza is a patron of NGO SEED Madagascar, has received a prestigious Lloyd’s Charity Award for his work building schools and fundraising for Malagasy children and has just published his  first book Kapp to Cape - chronicling his record breaking adventure. In the midst of all this, Reza somehow found time to share his travel highs and lows with Just About Travel readers


What do you like to do on holiday?
A holiday for me is chilling on the beach - basically a proper rest. My job is all about travelling as I make adventure television programmes. I travel to very remote parts of the world and bring back good stories to tell through my films, books and talks. Therefore, for a holiday I chose places that I can really put my brain to rest. A place without a mobile reception and WIFI is ideal!


The worst road in the world - Moyale to Marsabit (Northern Kenya)

Where did you last go?
I travelled to New Orleans and Miami during the Christmas break - New Orleans was awesome. It's pretty hard not to get inspired there as the live music and street performances are simply world class. The best in the world.

Do you know where you’re going this year?
For work I will be travelling to West Africa and Iran. For a holiday,  I am headed to French Polynesia.

Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?
I'd have to say Madagascar - that country took my breath away. The people, culture and music are phenomenal. It’s very unique, just like its eco-system.


Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
Benin. Formerly known as Dahomey, it's one of Africa's most stable democracies and has been on my bucket list for ages.

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
Ellen Valley in Wales which is like a scene out of Lord of the Rings . It’s a hidden gem in the UK. Mid Wales is really quite magical.

How do you plan your holiday?
My starting point is always a map. Once I chose the destination, I become obsessed with it and do a lot of research. Normally I book my first's night accommodation and have some ideas where I want to go but I try hard not to book things. I like to go with a flow.


Reza suffering with malaria and food poisoning in his hospital bed in Kitengela

How often do you go away?
Very often! Too often perhaps! I travel for both work and leisure and  absolutely love it.

Who do you travel with?
For work, I normally travel with a film crew. For leisure, I travel with my fiancée - she is a big time traveller too.

Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
I think the UK will attract more international travellers - the depreciated Sterling has opened a huge amount of opportunity  for foreign tourists to visit. Also given the popularity of adventure travel, I can see that more and more tourists will be visiting remote parts of Scotland and Wales.

Thanks Reza!


Reza Pakravan's first book Kapp to Cape (£14.99; Summersdale) is out now. Deciding to break away from his city job and comfortable lifestyle in London, Reza and his friend set off from the most northerly point on mainland Europe and attempt to cycle a world record breaking 11,000 miles to Cape Town, completely unsupported.


Wish you were here?

The big summer getaway has begun! Today is forecast to be Heathrow's busiest day so far this summer, as schools across the country break up and put upon parents venture abroad with little Johnny and Jane for the three S’s -  that's sun, sand and sea. Of course not everyone can escape the office this August: some of us have to stay and, y’know, actually do some work. But if, like me, you’ve been left behind in Blighty, panic not.

Britain is rather brilliant in August: think t-shirt temperatures, the chance to enjoy the country in a more relaxed manner and an almost empty office - meaning you can plan your winter break (and escape - at least for a little while - the big freeze) on work time. Huzzah!

But a great globe-trotting itinerary takes a certain kind of planning to ensure the best route - and price. Here are my tips for a top journey..


 1. Do your homework
Homework can be fun. The first (and best) step is to make a list of all the places that you’d most like to visit. I like to divide them into three categories: short haul, mid haul and long haul.

2. Speak to an expert Now it’s time to talk... Online booking engines are a wonderful thing but I’m all about talking to a travel specialist. They can advise you on where might be both wallet draining and difficult to get to (the Galapagos Islands anyone?) and suggest destinations that might not previously have entered your head. Case in point? A friendly Flight Centre whom I was talking to about India, advised me that I would be mad - while in the area and all - to miss out on Bhutan.

3. Think about when to go
The cheapest time to set off during winter tends to be the months of October, November, February and March. Easter, July, August, Christmas and the New Year are most expensive. June and September can also be quite pricey as people who want to catch thelast of the sun’s rays without having to witness children's temper tantrums, tend to travel during this period.

4. Check the weather
That said, check the weather before confirming flights. Cheap is good, but being dry is better. I used to live in the Cayman Islands and met plenty of sad, soggy travellers who had snapped up cheap air tickets to visit the Caribbean island... during the ‘official’ hurricane season (June-Nov). As a rule of thumb, December through to April is a good time to visit the Caribbean while January is great for Thailand and Australia, but not Japan. Want to find out what the weather is like in other holiday hotspots? Check out:

 5. Money matters
It’s not just about forking out for the flight ticket: you’ll also need to pay for your food, accommodation and activities - and costs vary from country to country. There’s a reason why I sought out South East Asia in my impoverished early-mid twenties and only turned my attention to South America (much more expensive) when I was older and therefore  in a better place financially. I like The Economist’s Big Mac Index - it shows you the cost of a burger in different countries and will help you decide  where you will be able to travel and how long for.

6. Air miles
Lastly air miles: use them or lose them. If you’ve registered with a frequent flyer programme, you could have earned enough points for a free flight. Check (airlines rarely send our polite memos reminding you to use your miles) before handing over your credit card...

Got your passport? See you on the beach...

Where the experts holiday: adventurer and author, Andy Torbet


The TV presenter, author and all round adventurer talks travel

What do you like to do on holiday? Work.  Sorry but it’s true.  I can’t abide being bored so I’d rather be doing something like diving or climbing and there to be a point to it rather than just for it’s own sake.  So I find filming, science or archaeology projects where there is a goal in an adventurous setting, the most rewarding. Conversely I find relaxing stressful!

Where did you last go? Cave diving and filming inside a flooded mine, about 100 feet deep underwater.

Do you know where you’re going this year? I’ve got dozens of filming projects in the UK diving, climbing, ice-climbing, freediving and skydiving and I’m also doing some personal projects cave diving in Finland and France.  I’m also planning the first of a number of mountaineering trips to Russia.

Of all the places you’ve been to, what was your favourite and why? We did a trip to Japan’s most remote island to film an underwater geological formation that some think was made by ancient man (I am not one of them).  That was fantastic because it was so different to anything I’d ever seen in 25 years of diving – the water was warm, the visibility was good, we saw some hammerhead sharks but mostly because the team consisted of good friends.

Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been? Antarctica.

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides? The outdoors. Most guides will point you to man-made structures but Britain has some fantastic cliffs, mountains, shoreline, rivers and forest to be explored by as many methods as you can imagine.

How do you plan your holiday? I don’t.  I’ve not taken a holiday in about five years but then I make a living from going to places and doing the things I would do on holiday, so there’s no real need.


How often do you go away? I’m away from home about 30 weeks a year but about half of that is in the UK.

Who do you travel with? Because of the extreme nature of some of my projects (e.g. cave or deep diving, high altitude skydiving, mountaineering) there is normally at least one or two people in the group that I’ve selected as someone I trust. It means  I’ve always got at least one friend watching my back.

Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years? I think Britain’s core tourism draw for foreigners is fairly fixed and based primarily on it’s big cities e.g. London, Edinburgh etc and their long history.  I have noticed an increase in natives taking their holidays in the UK rather than going abroad and that could be a reflection of the economic times.

 For more information on the all round extreme adventurer, please click here