Earth Day 2014 – My Beautiful Earth

Today is Earth Day 2014, and if you love to travel the world, visit exotic locations, take beautiful pictures, and breathe fresh air, now is definitely the time to make a stand and do your own little bit to help the planet.

Earth Day began in 1970, when some 20 million American citizens came together to raise awareness and highlight issues such as climate change, carbon emissions, depletion of natural resources, and loss of natural habitats. Fast-forward 44 years, and Earth Day is now a global event that is celebrated by more than 1 billion people worldwide, and yet we still have a very long way to go.

The Earth Day 2014 Website states:

“Education is at the heart of Earth Day. With initiatives that tackle sustainable school foods, develop innovative curriculum, implement green infrastructure solutions, and connect educators around the word, we educate and engage our future leaders, their teachers, and communities.”

Reducing energy consumption at home, refusing to buy disposable plastic bags and bottles, recycling, and donating to charities that save endangered species are just some of the things we can do to show our support for Earth Day 2014, and it we all take baby steps, we can stride into a secure and sustainable future.

As someone who loves to travel the world, I think it’s definitely worth fighting for… and here are just a few pictures of My Beautiful World – what does yours look like?

Earth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthClimbing Kilimanjaro 7 Day Machame Route Summit AttemptEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthA-Z of Travel - A is for AfricaEarth Day 2014 - My Beautiful EarthSelf Drive Holidays New Zealand

Self-Drive Tours Namibia – Do You Really Need a 4×4 or Can You Drive with a Normal Car?

A question I asked about a million people before heading to Namibia on our recent self-drive tour was, do we need a 4×4 vehicle or can we self-drive Namibia with a normal car?

Self Drive Holidays and Safaris Namibia

The answers were pretty much 50 / 50, in that half of those I asked said a 4×4 was essential, while the other half said a normal car was fine… But now that we have “been there, done that”, I feel I am in a position to answer this question for others, and the answer is… Yes and No!

After much deliberation, we chose to rent a regular car, and during our 12-day, 2500km journey, our trusty Volkswagen never had a single bump, scrape, chip, or flat tyre…although it was rather dusty! So while I can say ‘yes’ you can self-drive Namibia with a regular rental car, I would also like to mention the following…

Self-Drive Tours Namibia – Do You Really Need a 4x4 or Can You Drive with a Normal Car?

Namibia is the perfect country for self-drive tours, but as soon as you head out of the main cities, the tar roads turn to gravel roads, and you will remain on gravel roads for most of your journey.  As with anywhere in the world, some roads are better maintained than others are, and if you are to navigate Namibia’s gravel roads in a regular saloon car, you need to be an experienced driver.

That said, the gravel roads are extremely wide and you will be lucky to see more than three other vehicles during a five-hour drive, so the chances of an accident or a smashed windscreen due to other cars flicking up stones is low. However, gravel can put added stress onto the smaller wheels of a regular car, and so you need to watch out for sharp rocks and anything that might give you a puncture.

Driving Namibia in a saloon car can be a bumpy ride, especially if you head on down to Sossusvlei, so if you are looking for comfort, opt for a 2×4 car with relatively high clearance to absorb some of the bumps along the way – this is the option we will be going for next time.

With regard to self-driving Namibia in a 4×4, well, I guess if you want to head off-road and do a self-drive safari in Etosha National Park this is probably the best option, but the vehicle, the insurance and the gas will take up a big chunk of your holiday budget.

So if you are not heading off into the unknown, stick with a 2×4, and spend the money you save on some fantastic souvenirs!

Voluntourism – Is it Really the Most Ethical Way to Holiday?

As one of the world’s fastest growing travel trends, Volunteer Tourism or “Voluntourism” attracts thousands of travellers each year.

A chance to combine a trip abroad with charity work, Voluntourism is perfect for those who would like spend their holiday time helping others, and providing you book your trip with an ethical travel company or charity, you can benefit both the local people and the local economy during your stay.

However, the Voluntourism industry is completely unregulated, and you need to ask the right questions before you book…

There are literally thousands of tour operators and charities offering Voluntourim holidays to the world’s most remote and far-flung destinations, but according to a recent study published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, the most expensive Volunteer holidays are proving to be the least responsible.

“The less responsible organisations tend to hide the origin of their costs, which can also hide excessive profit margins”, said Dr. Xavier Font, who worked on the study, while the director of Global Vision International said, “Without question, there are some great organisations that do some very good work in the third sector, and some terrible ones that probably should not be allowed to operate”.

When it comes to any kind of responsible, sustainable and volunteer tourism, the key is transparency, so don’t be afraid to ask your travel agent or charitable organisation a few important questions such as:

  • How much of what I pay covers overheads, and how much goes directly to the project?
  • How is my money managed and when will the project benefit from my visit?
  • Can I speak with some of your previous travellers?
  • Can I speak with the local contact on the ground before I leave home?
  • Can I see your responsible / sustainable tourism policy?

Voluntourism can be a wonderful thing; we just need to make sure the right people are benefiting.

 

Save Those Air Miles on Your Next Flight – They are Worth More than You Think!

If, like me, you have a million different loyalty cards for your favourite airlines, but rarely remember to use them when booking a flight – it is time to dig them out from the back of your purse and check just how many points / avios / air miles you have available, as they could be worth more than you think.

flights to cape town

Upgrading your flight to the next category is always costly (in terms of air miles), and unless you have around 25,000 British Airways Avios (two round-trips from London to Cape Town), there is little chance that you will be able to upgrade your ticket, but there are other ways in which you can spend your airline currency…

You can book hotels, rent a car, and book a reward flight using your air miles, and if you do not have enough Avios for the entire trip, you can ‘top it up’ with cash, or ‘pool’ your air miles together with those of a family member and pay it off without spending a penny!

A great idea for those who travel frequently, but with different airlines, this system allows you to use up your air miles before they expire, and enjoy some of the ‘perks’ generally reserved for business or first class passengers.

Having redeemed my pending Avios against an overnight stay in a 4* Hotel (completely free of charge), I now realise that air miles are not just about ‘upgrades’, and if you travel long-haul even once per year, they are most definitely worth collecting.

 

 

 

All Inclusive Hotel vs. Self-Catering Villa – What Type of Holiday Accommodation do you prefer?

When it comes to booking your annual holiday abroad, do you prefer to stay in a hotel with a range of amenities and an all-inclusive program, or do you prefer to rent a private villa with self-catering facilities and the creature comforts of home?

The Villa Rental market has grown at an incredible rate over the past 10 years, and with more availability, more locations, and more space for a growing family, a villa can be the perfect solution for those travelling in larger groups with family and friends, and it could work out a lot cheaper than an all-inclusive break.

Renting a Holiday Villa

The beauty of renting a holiday villa is that you are in charge of the menu, there are no timetable restrictions tying up your day, and you are more likely to venture off to local restaurants and meet local people than those who paid for the their meals in advance, but does it work out more expensive than an all-inclusive break?

Well, I suppose that is all down to budgeting.  Most holiday villas feature a complete kitchen, BBQ facilities and swimming pool, and if you stock up at the local supermarket on arrival, you will not have to venture far from your sun lounger to get a refreshing drink or a snack.

Holiday Villas can have anything from two to ten bedrooms, so if you are travelling in a larger group, it will most likely work out cheaper than paying for five or six hotel rooms.

Then we come to the All-Inclusive Holiday!

Another popular travel trend, especially with families with younger children, all-inclusive holidays include everything from your flights and accommodation to all meals, drinks and entertainment, so you know exactly how much your holiday is going to cost before you even pack your suitcase.

A good choice for travellers who have a tight holiday budget, the children can have as many ice-creams as they want, mum and dad can have that extra cocktail without thinking about it, and you can eat as and when you are hungry – but it’s not for everyone.

All-inclusive holidays are great for people that want to spend all day, every day in resort, but if you intend to go out, try new restaurants, and take full-day excursions, you are going to have to pay again for meals you have essentially paid for.

What type of holiday accommodation do you prefer?  Please drop us a line and let us know!

 

 

 

 

 

Last Chance to Enter the Cape Argus Cycle Tour 2014

With just over five weeks to go until the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour 2014 (that’s 39 days, 12 hours, and 32 minutes for anyone who’s interested!), the pressure is on to train, train, and then train some more, in preparation for the world’s largest timed cycle race.

Last Chance to Enter the Cape Argus Cycle Tour 2014

I’ve whinged and whined about how difficult it is for us European’s to train in the Northern Hemisphere during our winter months, but now the excitement is starting to kick in, and I can’t believe that in just four weeks time, we will be on our way to South Africa!

Cycling in snow is a challenge (especially on a road bike), so we’ve been making the most of the mountains with brisk winter walks, and while we probably won’t be tiptop condition for the Cape Argus on 9th March, we will be ready, willing, and hopefully able to complete the 109km route!

If you are still ‘umming and arring’ about the 2014 Cape Argus, the time has arrived to make your final decision.  South African entrants can still enter by riding for a charity, and International cyclists have until 21st February to secure their place on this amazing event!

Sun, sea, sand and cycling awaits… so why not go for it, and book your place now. You won’t regret it!

Worried about the cost of your 2014 Holiday? Worry not; Brits have already spent £10 Billion on Holidays This Year…!

I love a good travel survey, and if the newly released study by Rural Retreats is anything to go by, then it seems Briton’s have already spent more than £10 Billion (yep, that’s BILLION) on holidays this year!

The survey found that in a desperate attempt to lift the doom and gloom of winter, one in four people have already booked their summer holiday for 2014, with the average person splashing out £1,204 for their annual trip abroad.

2014 holidays to Africa

Of those questioned in the survey, 52 per cent said they booked a holiday in January to give themselves something to look forward to, while a further 28 per cent said they had booked up early  because they had found a particularly good deal during the holiday sales.

A second batch of good news came in the form of a second survey carried out by ecommerce specialist Webloyalty, which found that more than two-thirds of people in Britain (68 per cent to be exact!) intend to take a holiday this year, and the average spend will be £2,000 per holidaymaker.

The survey went on to indicate that overseas beach holidays and city breaks are going to be more popular this year than they were in 2013, but ‘Staycations’ are set to decline slightly as Brits head off to warmer locations in search of sun, sea and sand.

Well, if our first three weeks of the year are anything to go by, it seems 2014 is going to be Africa’s year! South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia are in huge demand, and if these survey’s are anything to go by, everyone can enjoy an African adventure in 2014!

 
 

Sensational Safari Destinations for 2014 Adventure Holidays

Thrilling, exhilarating and awe-inspiring are just some of the words I would use to describe a safari holiday, and if your idea of the perfect adventure holiday includes ever-changing landscapes, luxury tented camps, and getting up close and personal with the local wildlife, Africa should be your 2014 destination!

Best African Safari DestinationsFrom the uber luxurious Botswana Safari to the affordable Kruger National Park self-drive trip, there really is a safari holiday to suit every budget, and while it certainly costs more than a week or two on the Costa del Sol, I have yet to meet anyone that didn’t think their safari was worth every single penny.

So if you are thinking of heading into the wilderness in search of those majestic creatures we only get to see in the zoo, here are some of our most popular safari destinations for your 2014 adventure:

Botswana Safari

Still referred to by many as the “ultimate” Safari destination, Botswana boasts numerous high-end game reserves where you can enjoy life’s little luxuries in the middle of the bush or the Okavango Delta.  A popular choice with honeymooners, Botswana is the perfect place for a very special holiday.

Namibia Safari

A country of rugged coastlines, sparse plains, and the oldest desert in the world, Namibia is a paradise for wildlife lovers and anyone with a passion for photography.  From the vivid red dunes of Sossusvlei to the infinite wildlife of Etosha National Park, Namibia has much to see and do, and it remains unspoilt in terms of tourism.

Zambia & Zimbabwe Safari

These neighbouring countries are fantastic safari holiday destinations in their own right, but they work even better when combined together!  Zimbabwe may have had more than its fair share of bad publicity in the past, but it is now a growing safari destination that homes the beautiful Hwange National Park, the Mana Pools National Park, and of course, the magical Victoria Falls.

South Africa Safari

The award for the most diverse safari destination would have to go to South Africa.  From the malaria-free safari zones of the Eastern Cape to the Kruger National Park and the luxurious Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa caters for every traveller and the wildlife sightings are spectacular.  The Big five are in abundance, and you can expect to see a whole host of unusual and exciting creatures during your South African Safari Adventure.

Thinking of Taking the Kids out of School for a Holiday? It could cost you more than you think!

We all know a holiday makes us feel better, and we all know that certain tour operators take advantage of families by hiking their prices during the school summer holidays… but is it really worth taking the risk of travelling during term time?

Well, British couple Stewart and Natasha Sutherland from Shropshire, decided to take the risk last September when they took their three children to Greece for a week, and as a result, they have just been fined £630 and ordered to pay £300 in costs!

Until recently, head teachers had the power to grant pupils up to 10 days’ leave for a family holiday in special circumstances, but it seems the new regulations have taken that power away, and absence during term time is only permitted during “exceptional circumstances”.

A very controversial subject, and one that is sure to raise the temperatures of hardworking parents who simply cannot afford the additional cost of a trip abroad during the school holidays, these new regulations could stop many children experiencing a family holiday, new cultures and the many other benefits that come with travel.

In court, Mr Sutherland stated that his job at the Ministry of Defence prevented him from taking leave during the school holidays, and that their September break in Greece was the first family holiday in five years… So is this fine justifiable?

Polls seem to indicate that many parents will ignore the new ruling, with over 130,000 signing a petition for the law to be overturned completely, and research carried out by consumer watchdog Which? suggests that the extra cost involved in booking a package holiday during the school summer holidays will most likely outweigh the cost of the fine.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said, “Poor attendance at school can have a hugely damaging effect” and “Parents should never simply discount a possible penalty notice from the cost of a cheaper holiday, because this is a criminal offence and when doing so they are always risking prosecution.”

Like everyone, I have my own views on this, but what I will say is… I don’t think the above mentioned spokesperson is very well travelled!

 

Are You Ready for ‘Sunshine Saturday’?

If you are thinking about booking your 2014 holiday but are waiting for a bargain, you will be pleased to know that this Saturday 11th January, is ‘Sunshine Saturday’ and over one million British travellers are expected to go online and search for the best 2014 holiday deals.

2014 holidays

Why, well according to a certain British Newspaper, many of us are experiencing ‘post-Christmas winter blues’, and it seems the only way to cheer ourselves up, is to book our spring, summer or autumn holiday to somewhere warm and exotic!

If you still prefer the ‘old-fashioned’ route of booking your annual holiday with your high street travel agent, then you might want to avoid 2pm, as this is expected to be the busiest time of the day on Sunshine Saturday.

Internet savvy travellers who use online travel agents and tour operators, are expected to peak at 8:45pm on Saturday evening, so if your idea of the perfect Saturday night includes your pyjamas, a bottle of Rosé and a box of leftover Christmas chocolates, grab your laptop, make yourself comfy and indulge your travel senses along with your taste buds!

European beach destinations and adventure holidays on far-flung shores are set to be the most popular on Sunshine Saturday, so make sure you book your holiday, before all the best ones are gone!