Which minibreak are you?

The title feels like one of those silly facebook quizzes only this isn’t chosen randomly. It is a genuine attempt to give you some ideas based on your very own personal requirements, the occasion and who you are with. The weekend break to celebrate a significant birthday or anniversary will be very different to a weekend with a group of friends or your extended business trip. The budget that you set aside will also predetermine what choices you have. A recent survey shows a definite trend towards several short breaks  rather than a traditional 2 week summer break to The Costas. Here are a few possible scenarios and ideas to go on

“The Minimoon”

Increasingly couples don’t want to go on a long honeymoon straightaway usually for reasons of finance or getting the time off,  or because you simply want to enjoy the wedding and enjoying the company of long lost relatives without the additional stress of thinking about a long holiday afterwards. Certainly the days of saying goodbye to the wedding guests as you head to the airport immediately after the first dance is a thing of the past. Of course a minimoon needs to be special and romantic but also cost effective so where can you achieve something like that?

I don’t think you could go too far wrong with something on a lake. If it’s slightly out of season, even better as there are less tourists. There is something about water that is peaceful and romantic so perhaps the Lake District or there are so many to choose from in Central Europe, the Italian Lakes, or Lake Bled or Lake Bohinj in Slovenia, the Austrian or Swiss Lakes, Baden Baden in Germany,  or Lake Balaton in Hungary where you can also enjoy very reasonably priced spa facilities.

You might also want to consider one of Europe’s many islands, there are so many to choose from, you could a classic picture postcard view of whitewashed churches with blue roofs in Santorini, or choose an island that doesn’t have a direct flight such as Paxos or Alonissos but expect the accommodation to be fairly basic without a pool and mod cons, or go for the gardens or lovely walks in Madeira, La Palma or La Gomera in the Canaries, the gorgeous bays in Corsica or Sardinia, one of many islands in Croatia, or really pushing the budget Sveti Stefan in Montenegro. Further afield you could go to the Azores where you can go whale watching.

You could perhaps celebrate over a glass of wine or two in Tuscany, or alternatively another wine and foodie region, perhaps Portugal, Madeira, Bordeaux or Alsace in France or the Palatinate region of Germany.

The stag and hen party

The stag hits a snag. If it is a party of around 8 or more not every hotel wants to accommodate single sex parties so this has to be considered. The larger the hotel or apartment is, the more likely they are to accommodate a single sex party. A small boutique hotel is not suitable for groups as it disturbs other guests and changes the character of the hotel. You shouldn’t have any problems with the classic resort choices, Benidorm, Magaluf, Fuengirola, Ibiza, Ayia Napa, Brighton. Cities are a little more tricky but again generally a fairly large chain hotel or a few apartments will normally accommodate a group without any problems but I always have to politely ask them. Trying to be sneaky about it can result in the hotel refusing the booking on arrival. Popular choices are Amsterdam, Dublin, Glasgow, Manchester, Cologne, Munich and Berlin. Recently more and more are choosing mini cruises as there are some excellent 3 or 4 day breaks on P&O and Cunard, CMV from Tilbury, or a few days in Jersey or Northern France on the ferry from the South Coast.  It may be possible to get a large house either in the UK or somewhere in Europe and these can be very reasonably priced but there is often a hefty deposit to be paid up front in case of damage and you often have to pick up the key from a different address.

Children’s Birthday

Everyone automatically thinks of Disneyland Paris but there are so many other ways to occupy children both in the UK and in Europe. Port Aventura is particularly good value, some holiday companies even include a 3-day ticket with a holiday to Salou. Siam Park in Tenerife has something for children of all ages and even adults. Over 7’s can swim with dolphins in Zoomarine near Albufeira in the Algarve. I really enjoyed Legoland in Billund and the one near Windsor has its own hotel or if you are driving there are some cheaper ones nearby or you could stay in lovely surroundings in nearby Windsor, Marlow, Henley or Denham all also convenient for Heathrow Airport.  Malta has Popeye Village which is fun for the younger ones.

Many hotels have waterparks and excellent children’s programmes an all inclusive hotel based holiday may be enough on its own to amuse your birthday child. There are plenty of hotels in Cyprus that spring to mind or you could go for activity based Club Med, Mark Warner or Neilson or a ski holiday if your child’s birthday is in winter.

Alternatively you could choose a city break. Somewhere like Barcelona visiting Camp Nou football stadium, Valencia with the amazing Arts and Sciences complex. Most older children will enjoy bring history and RE lessons to life in Rome or Greek mythology in Athens. There are also many things to do in Dubai if you want a break further afield.

Birthday or Anniversary Trip

Apart from the dubious novelty of enjoying an ice cold Budweiser at 21, USA is a great way to spend a 21st in New York, Boston, Las Vegas or Chicago. BA have been introducing new routes including New Orleans and next year they are launching Nashville and there are often seat sales so plenty of opportunities there. You can enjoy a freezing cold Coors at the tender age of 19 in Toronto and 18 in Montreal so you can still cross the Atlantic to celebrate a slightly younger birthday.

A young liberal city with interesting arts and music, closer to home include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin, Cologne, Munich, Stockholm or look at Eastern European cities Bratislava, Ljubljana, Tallin, Krakow, Budapest or Prague. Closer to home Belfast is a great city with good bars and the Titanic exhibition.

Cruises will suit birthday or celebration trips for all ages as you can dress up and be spoilt with good food and cocktails. Different ships and itineraries will suit different ages, for instance a mid range Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise will generally have a much younger clientele than a Fred Olsen cruise to the Fjords or the Baltics. I enjoyed my first river cruise for my 60th birthday and now I’m hooked. I love river cruising and want to do this for out Ruby Wedding too but the average age, although coming down is still generally higher than for Ocean cruising

Closer to home, there are many good weekend deals to be had in lovely foodie manor houses around the country. Many of these have swimming pools and spa facilities. In London you can get a hotel and show deal or a hotel and dinner deal or Champagne in a pod on the London Eye or afternoon tea at the Ritz or Fortnum & Mason, lunch on the Thames .

The Special Interest Trip

There are many of these and I will think of some examples that clients have asked me for over the years

World War II – Ypres in Belgium and Normandy are the best known and there are quite a lot of organised coach trips with a guide. There are also a number of river cruises along the Seine with a choice of Normandy Beach trips.

Classic cars in Italy – these are possible but very expensive because of the insurance.

Volcanoes – Italy has several, Mount Etna, Stromboli and Vesuvius and Iceland of course

Sailing – Croatia is probably the best place to do this

Music Concerts – These are often cheaper in Europe than they are in the UK and a good excuse to snatch a weekend as well as seeing your favourite artist.

Business Trips

I do a lot of business trips, conferences and extended business trips. There are often opportunities to add a night or two extra on to a business trip or to combine it with another destination eg business trip in Milan with a few days on the lakes or perhaps Rome or Venice, perhaps joined in the second destination by a partner or family member, I do quite a few of these too.

The No Fly Trip

I have already mentioned a few of these but I have only briefly touched on rail. Eurostar not only goes to Paris and Brussels but also Lille, Avignon, Lyons and Marseille. There are many through fares to other cities connecting through one of these cities.

There are many coach trips too picking up from home or a nearby location for your trip round UK, Europe, WWII or your river cruise.

I also briefly touched on Jersey and Northern France for a weekend break and these are possible either by self – drive or on a passenger ferry. Guernsey, Isle of Man and Ireland are also doable by fast ferry.

You may think I am only interested in exotic trips but the UK is consistently my number one destination by passenger numbers. London, Edinburgh, Blackpool, Devon and Cornwall, Lake District, Cotswolds, and Brighton are normally the top destinations. Some are business trips, some are family caravans and some are spa and foodie weekends, a whole range.

Note – These are not covered by ATOL but they are covered by Travel Counsellors failure insurance.

The Bucket List Trip

You may not actually think of Europe for a bucket list trip but even somebody as well travelled as I am can still think of many trips in Europe that I need to do and some I have already done.

The top one still on my list is the Northern Lights which can be seen in Iceland, Norway and Lapland.

For some seeing a ballet in Russia would be on their list and a Baltic cruise presents a great opportunity as a visa isn’t required providing the cruise company organises the trip. Some would like to see an opera in Milan, Verona or Vienna.

Another good bucket list trip is the Orient Express. I did an evening trip with my mum about 15 years ago but it is also possible to do combinations with hotels, racing and longer trips, one of those being The Hibernian in Ireland which was introduced to the portfolio a couple of years ago.

https://www.belmond.com/grand-hibernian-train/

Even as a seasoned cruiser, a Cunard cruise is still very special with a nostalgic white glove service, chandeliers and days gone by. I have been on Queen Mary II Transatlantic and Caribbean but I would love to go on Queen Victoria or Queen Elizabeth in Europe.

Christmas Markets and Santa Breaks

There are many Christmas Markets all across Europe and you can book an organised coach tour or short River Cruise calling at different Christmas Markets along the Rhine or Danube or an an organised rail tour, or else you can simply book a weekend break in December and I will send you details of the Christmas Markets. The best known I believe is Cologne which now has 7 Christmas Markets but there are many all across Europe mostly in central Europe, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Eastern Europe but also worth looking at Barcelona, Madrid and Seville who are also capturing the Christmas Market trends and there are also more and more in the UK too so why not have a weekend break in one of our own cities?

Santa Breaks range from day trips to several days. A couple of the tour operators have now scrapped day trips because the best venues are a long distance from the airport so they were finding that the experience wasn’t as authentic nor as enjoyable as a 1 or 2 night trip. It is also not recommended for small babies as it is of course extremely cold and they won’t remember so best to wait until they are at least 3 or 4, young enough to believe in the experience but old enough to remember when they saw Santa. These are in different locations in Swedish and Finnish Lapland and usually on direct charter flights from various UK airports. Dates are limited so you need to boo early and be very flexible on budget and dates.

The quirky trip

Ones that spring to mind are The Ice Hotel in Sweden sometimes combined with a Northern Lights trip. One night in the Ice Hotel is usually enough

http://www.icehotel.com/

Cave hotels – this concept can be found in Santorini

Botel – This is a budget hotel in Amsterdam. It is very basic but fun, suitable for groups

Design Hotels – many of these are themed with individual rooms.

This is by no means a definitive list, just a few ideas to think about and expand on. I can of course book most of these for you (I can’t always do concert tickets, opera tickets and museum tickets but I can always try). Please feel free to contact me on 020 3432 4740 or email cathie.odea@travelcounsellors.com for any of these and many more!

 

 

 

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