Travel & Days Out

Places to go, do, see and explore.

Reasons to Explore Germany

One of the most diverse countries in Europe, Germany has plenty to offer its visitors. Made up of a multitude of regional identities all offering their own distinctive experiences, Germany has something to suit almost all possible tastes and interests. Whether you’re looking for delicious food, lively festivals, or stunning architecture, you can be assured that Germany has the experience that you’re after.

There are plenty of fairy tale castles in Germany

There are far too many reasons why you should visit this incredible country to list them all here, but here are just a few of the best to get you started.

Cuisine

If you’re all about food tourism, then Germany is definitely somewhere you need to visit! Sure, it’s famous for its (delicious) sausages, but there is far more to German cuisine than the legendary Bratwurst.

Firstly, there is Germany’s answer to pasta – Spätzle, which is hugely popular in the south. This dish of mouth-watering egg noodles is topped with cheese and roasted onions and is often served with meat dishes. On a cold day, it’s worth trying Eintopf, a delicious one-pot stew using ingredients such as lentils, broth and vegetables, and finishing off with a traditional Bretzel (pretzel) or two from a German bakery.

There is also the versatile Kartoffelpuffer, a shallow-fried pancake made from grated potatoes mixed with egg, onion, flour, and seasoning. These scrumptious pancakes are served either sweet or savory, with a variety of condiments such as apple sauce, cinnamon, cheese, or sour cream.

Culture

German culture has been influenced and shaped throughout its long and fascinating history. The people, language, and traditions of Germany make it a truly unique place to visit. It not only played an integral part in the history of Europe, but it has also become one of the most stable economies in the world. Germany has been home to some of the world’s most famous philosophers such as Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and classical composers such as Bach and Beethoven. Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky frequented the Kurhaus of Baden Baden whenever he could.

Modern Germany is home to a number of world-famous music festivals such as Wacken and Rock am Ring and there are also regular carnivals and arts festivals in which entire cities throw huge parties.

Sport plays a huge role in German culture, and it is estimated that some 27 million Germans belong to a sports club in one way or another. Many people like to visit the home of the German National Football Team while they are here or watch a championship match on one of the huge screens that are set up when big games are played.

Pay a visit to the Rakotzbrücke in Rhododendronpark

Architecture

Germany has a fine array of palaces, castles, monuments, amphitheatres, and cathedrals. Almost every type of historical architecture from history can be seen here, from pre-Romanesque structures and Gothic buildings to Renaissances styles and neoclassical constructions. There are also plenty of solid examples of contemporary German architecture, demonstrating much of the Bauhaus school styles that originated in the 1920s. There are more than 48 official UNESCO World Heritage sites in Germany, making it a rich source of historical interest.

Make sure to check out the Umschreibung in Munich, a winding staircase created by Olafur Eliasson which lends itself to some very beautiful photographs, or head to the Rakotzbrücke in Rhododendronpark to see the medieval bridge that gives the illusion of being a full circle.

The Vischering Castle in Lüdinghausen is a beautiful sandstone structure built in 1271 and set within a moat, while the Semperoper in Dresden is one of the most stunning opera houses in the world. Built in 1841 by Gottfried Semper, the opera house is a truly magnificent construction that leaves most visitors in total awe.

So, whether you want to visit Germany for its mouth-watering cuisine, fairy-tale castles or lively culture, you can be sure that your trip will be one of the most memorable of your life! Just remember to bring a suitcase big enough to carry home all of those Bratwursts.

How to Apply for Entry to the United States

Applying for entry to the United States is a process that would take a significant amount of time. The U.S.A. government is implementing a strict set of rules to ensure the safety of its people and those visiting their country. But this does not hinder travellers from visiting the U.S. Steady growth of inbound travelers to the U.S has been observed, with 63.48 million in 2011 and 79.62 million visiting the U.S. in 2018.

There are various reasons for visiting the U.S.A. It is a unique country that hosts a diverse set of people with various religions, races, traditions, and political beliefs. You will always find something interesting with its numerous museums, evolving fashion style, diverse cuisine, and hidden attractions. You will suitably fit somewhere, whether you love the hustles of a big city, a quiet life in a small town, or the scenic view in secluded locations. With that being said, here are methods for applying entry to the United States.

Visa Waiver Program

For a select group of countries, a visa waiver program was designed by the U.S. to replace the Visa system. The ESTA USA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization is an automated system for entering the U.S. Length of stay is 90 days and a validity of 2 years with the opportunity of multiple entries. However, there is only a selection of eligible countries for this program, such as Australia, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, to name a few. 

Visa Application

The most common way to enter the U.S. is through the application of a visa. The visa is a document issued by a U.S. consulate to non-US citizens for entry to the U.S. Depending on the purpose, the following are the types of visas.

Business or Professional Visa

The nonimmigrant North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Professional visa is specifically for citizens of Canada and Mexico who would be working in the U.S. The process of application involves obtaining a letter from a future employer regarding the offer of a position, filing of forms and attending an interview. 

Visitor Visa

This is the type of visa you need if you are travelling to the U.S for a brief period for business or tourism. Classifications under this visa type are B-1 and B-2, with the former granted for travellers attending a conference, meeting with associates, or for settling an estate or negotiating of contract. The B-2 classification is for tourists on vacation or those visiting theU.S.. for medical treatment or social events. For pregnant women visiting the U.S., it is the CBP Officer’s discretion if your entry will be allowed.

Transit Visa

If your ultimate destination is not the U.S., but you will be stopping in the country briefly, then the transit visa is for you. A transit visa is required for tourists having a brief layover in theU.S.. or for cruise ship passengers wherein the vessel is to make port in the U.S.A, even if the final destination is another country. 

Student Visa

This type is given to international students after being accepted by a school accredited in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). If pursuing academic studies, the F-1 classification is granted, while the M-1 type is given when pursuing vocational studies. 

Refugees and Asylum

For people who fled their homes and seeking protection, the U.S. also provides certain processes for entry in their borders. For refugees, the person is required to contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or any international nonprofit volunteer agency to assist in entering the U.S. 

With the information above, hopefully, you now have a clearer understanding of how to enter the U.S legally. If you are still uncertain about the procedures and type of visa to apply for, it is best to consult with a professional. Just ensure that these organizations are legal and accredited. For protection, it is best to consult with the nearest U.S. embassy in your country.

Something For Everyone With A Weekend In Cardiff

With great transport links, Cardiff is the youngest capital city in Europe. Set on a scenic coastal location, it’s home to multiple international sporting and cultural centres, alongside the BBC Drama Village, a new business district, a thriving town centre but also more green space per person than any other UK city. Known for having a friendly population, it’s a vibrant place to head for a weekend whether you are seeking nights on the town, a family getaway, a romantic break, or perhaps a few days of culture and history. Cardiff has something for everyone.

Fun with friends

The city has a great atmosphere and plenty of options for entertainment making it a popular choice for groups of friends. Its nightclubs are well known, with flavours of Cuba, Ibiza, or the 90s amongst your options. Or perhaps you want to focus on live music, classy cocktails, rooftop drinking or even dancing on the bar top. If pubs are more your thing, Cardiff is known to have the most pubs per square foot in the UK. This includes craft breweries and even a take on a German beer cellar.

However, there are options for those looking for something a bit different and beyond the normal nightlife too. You could stick with the pubs but on a historic pub tour. Or try an Escape Room, the big trend at the moment, via companies like Fizzbox where you can choose from a range of settings from the Titanic to a tropical island. There’s even a restaurant in the city’s prison. You can play some of the best bingo sites before you start your night out, a night in Cardiff really can take you anywhere!

Family Favourites

If you are heading to Cardiff with family, the bars might not be your draw, but there is still plenty on offer. To start there are actually 3 castles in the city, but Cardiff Castle is perhaps the most fascinating. The site has had a castle on it for over 2000 years with the different owners each adding their mark. Today it houses the medieval alongside the gothic with an interesting blend of Roman, Norman and Victorian buildings and legacies. There are even tunnels within the castle which were used as air-raid shelters in the second world war. The site is truly steeped in diverse history. And as you wander around the grounds you’ll get some great views of the city.

The National Museum is also close by and with free entry it offers a natural history exhibition on the ground floor, with an art gallery on the upper level. And of course, there are the plentiful parks and green spaces all around, such as the 130 acres of Bute Park or the boating lake in Roath Park.

Romance

If you are in Cardiff with more romantic intentions, then it makes sense to head to the waterfront. Cardiff Bay is the largest such development in Europe and has transformed the old docks which now mix modern architecture with historic buildings such as the Pierhead, home of the National Assembly for Wales. With the BBC drama centre here it’s possible you’ll recognise some of the surroundings from the likes of Doctor Who episodes. With science and sports centres too, this all makes it perfect for plenty of types of visitor, but it’s a great setting for a starry-eyed meal in one of the many international restaurants or a walk across the Barrage embankment with its maritime vista over the bay and the Severn Estuary.

There is also the Millennium Centre; a striking sight and an icon of the city. It’s worth popping by just to take in the building with its copper front which features a poem in the Welsh language. It’s even better at night when the words are lit up. You can take in the bay views from the Centre’s cafe, or of course attend one of the many performances across opera, music and theatre.

Wales Millennium Centre by Thomas Duesing

Sport fans

Finally, talk of Cardiff should surely mention sport specifically. Most famously it’s the home of Welsh rugby union at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff Arms Park. But it doesn’t stop at rugby. The city is also home to the Cardiff Devils, a professional elite ice hockey team and there are public skating sessions at the Viola Arena. Then Cardiff Bay also has its own yacht club and of course, there is the international sports village – set for further major developments – which has a white water centre with a range of water-based activities. So whether you are more of a spectator or participant, the sport-minded have plenty to choose from.

Principality Stadium by Thomas Duesing

So Cardiff is ready and waiting. Whatever your interests, head to the Welsh capital and take your pick.

Alone In Paris,The City Of Light – Why I Recommend It

When I was 19 I spent three weeks as an au pair to a French diplomat and his three children.  That glorious summer was at the end of my second year in Swansea University and, although I was nervous, I packed my treasured Antler suitcase and headed off toute seule.

Image credit: Sulox 32 Pixabay

Welcomed into a rather cold but orderly Parisian flat in the suburb of Meudon, I quickly fell in love with the sights, sounds and smells of the French capital.  From the waft of Gitane smoke in the Metro stations to the sweet aroma of crepes freshly made on street corners, everywhere offered a new experience to the senses.

I had been to Paris before on a school trip but travel is an entirely different experience when you are on your own.  It is also a challenge when you have to speak French to three kids (and a cat) and you hear barely a word of your own language for days.

As you might imagine, I made the most of my spare time.  There were trips to Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.  A wander around the Louvre and the fabulous Rubens Gallery (much more impressive than La Jaconda I thought).  Outside Notre Dame Cathedral I was mistaken for a local and interviewed (briefly) for a French radio station.

Notre Dame Cathedral: image credit Satyaprem from Pixabay

Many a cafe au lait was sipped and many a French magazine purchased.  I hunted for Roger et Gallet soap to take home (to this day I can’t find my favourite, Fougere) and loitered in the pharmacies where, even then, skincare was treated with a cross between scientific exploration and an almost religious reverence.

For the latter half of my trip, we packed everything into a small car and headed off for a chateau in the middle of the country near Nevers.  It sounds glamorous but there was no running water and the toilet had to be flushed with a bucket. The rooms were small and dark with ancient creaking wooden furniture and dust danced in the sunlight which pierced the slats of the shutters.

Taking a siesta was mandatory and so, from the middle of the day till around 3 pm, the chateau vibrated to the sonorous snoring of my employer and his girlfriend who would occasionally visit in between rounds of golf.

The children were a delight.  I don’t know exactly what had happened to their mother but they were affectionate, if quarrelsome.

I will always remember that there was a cherry orchard behind the chateau and one evening as we sat out drinking wine, the youngest lad marched solemnly up to me and presented me with a sprig of cherry blossom he had chosen.

I also remember the food.  Simple, rustic, fresh.  The girlfriend would appear with trays of fresh peaches.  Yoghurt was eaten plain with a teaspoon of brown sugar.  Squash was diluted red wine!  I learned to eat artichoke and to make a proper vinaigrette.  Baguettes were always fresh that day from the local boulangerie and the goats’ cheese came from a local farmer.

Then we packed up and returned to Paris with the cat, practically feral by the point, hissing and spitting in a box on the car roof.

I returned to Wales feeling truly European and as if I could take on anything.  My language skills had improved and my confidence had grown by leaps and bounds.

As a mum, though, I sometimes wonder how I’ll be when Caitlin wants to spread her wings and travel the world.  Both excited and apprehensive I guess.  I certainly could not deny her the opportunity to venture abroad and hope that, by then, she will have enough commonsense and savoir-faire not to get into any scrapes (as I did in Egypt, but that’s another story).

A Bateau Mouche on the Seine. Image credit: SoleneC1 at Pixabay

The media whips us parents up into a lather of worry when it comes to young people travelling abroad, doesn’t it?  If they are not falling off cliffs taking selfies, they are prey to dubious locals.  It gives me the shudders just to think of it.

But then I remember being all alone on the Champs Elysee and the fabulous feeling of freedom.  Solo travel is truly great for discovering ones’ self and ones’ capabilities, isn’t it?

It will be a while before Caitlin ventures forth but in the meantime we are planning a Parisian city break with Voyage Privé. We’ll take the kids to visit the Eiffel Tower  – is that rickety lift still there halfway up I wonder?  We’ll visit some of the smaller museums like the Jeu de Paume and take a bateau mouche along the Seine.

And I’ll be hoping that the kids fall in love with Paris, just as I did.

6 Tips To Check Out Before Visiting Orlando With Kids

Orlando, which attracts tens of millions of visitors every year, is the world capital of theme parks. Hosting Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, Florida is an ideal destination for families with plenty to keep children and adults entertained. And although you may know everything there is to know about Mickey’s Orlando, there is still much beyond Disney to keep in mind when you visit the city for the first time. With that in mind, here are 6 important things to know before your first trip to Orlando with kids.

Artystyk386 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Renting a car is the easiest way to get around Orlando

Orlando is big, and the most convenient way to get through the city’s four-lane highways is by car. Lynx buses and SunRail trains offer good public transportation options, but you may want to explore beyond the subway area and go further to see beaches, wildlife and other attractions within walking distance of the city. Avoid taxis because all those trips back to the parks add up.

Tip: Through Enjoy you can compare car hire in the city of Orlando and find the cheapest prices.

Complimentary transport is also worth considering

If renting a car is not an option, there are other smart ways to travel around the city for free, mainly to and from parks and areas such as International Drive. Most parks and resorts have mutual agreements to provide complimentary transportation for guests, so if you are here to visit the amusement parks, such transportation is an easy and convenient way to save money.

Buying all tickets in advance will save you money

The smartest way to save in Orlando is to book tickets in advance using the discounted online price. This applies to theme parks (as more days are acquired, the price per day becomes cheaper), but it also applies to many attractions, from tours and shows to museums and art exhibitions.

I-Drive is a convenient place to stay

The International Drive (I-Drive) is a cultural theme park in itself that offers many food and beverage options, exclusive shops and discount stores, resorts and some of the city’s most popular clubs and theatres. Along with the variety of hotels and entertainment, I-Drive is close to the parks and the Orange County Convention Center, making it an excellent place for those who wish to have all of Orlando’s main attractions right at their doorstep.

The golf scene in Orlando is amazing

Orlando is a golfer’s dream. With around 25 courses in the city, it is not difficult to see why so many golf professionals consider the city to be their home. For tourists, the large number of public golf courses means variety. The pristine and well-kept streets within the world of Walt Disney World, such as Waldorf Astoria Orlando or Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes, are a paradise for golfers. So, don’t forget to pack your sticks!

Walt Disney World is not a park, and it is huge

Of course, this may seem obvious, but there are many people who may not know that Walt Disney World is actually a fusion of four of the largest theme parks in the world, covering approximately 40 square miles. Yes, the Four Park Challenge is one thing, which is coming to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios games, all in one day. However, we do not recommend the challenge unless you have 10 days to spend in the parks. Instead, it will be better to decide on one or two that you want to visit. The children will have a blast no matter which you pick.

5 Tips and Tricks to Travelling to London During the Summer

Travelling to a different country can be quite a daunting experience if you are not prepared. If you plan on bringing along the little kids plus matching gigantic suitcases, now, that’s a recipe for disaster. London is one such place where you would want to visit every nook and cranny, especially in the summer when it is warm and sunny. No need to worry about all those because London is quite a tourist-friendly place. Read on to know how you can go about travelling in London during the summer.

 

Book way ahead of time

If you want to get the most out of your travel money stash, try booking tickets for your trip as early as possible. Booking your tickets online for the main attractions at least a day before such as the London Eye can save you a few pounds, which you can use for shopping for small trinkets or memorabilia. Booking your tickets in advance also means less time waiting in long lines for more time exploring London’s sights and attractions.

Take advantage of the free things/places

It can be quite expensive touring a big city like London. But there are places in the city that you can visit for free! London has many picturesque parks, gardens, and playgrounds where you can bring your family for free to escape the city scene. Museums are a great way to learn about the history and culture of the place, and London is dotted with museums that you can visit for free such as the British Museum and Natural History Museum.

Drop your baggage in a safe place

With all the walking and riding on buses or trains that you have to do, you need not worry about lugging your bags with you. How lucky we are now that there are companies such as LuggageHero and Stasher who will take care of your luggage while you go out and about your journey. What’s good is that you can also book their services online and their location is conveniently situated near the train station. 

Take the bus or train

A big, beautiful city such as London can be quite challenging to manoeuvre on foot. A good thing to know, the transportation system in the city is very efficient and can easily lead you to the exciting places you want to go to. For a more memorable experience, you can take the original red double-decker bus when you need to travel short distances around the city. If you need to get around places in London the quickest way possible without spending too much, take the London tube. 

Get your phone unlocked

The mobile phone is quite a handy tool for travelling these days. Having your phone unlocked before you travel can give you more benefits than you can imagine. Buying a local sim card can save you loads of cash, especially when you need data for wifi when navigating using the Google maps. Enjoy lower rates for call and text messages when you use a local sim.

Travelling is an adventure, and it always comes with challenges, big or small; you can never prepare enough. I hope these tips come in handy when you decide to book for your next trip to the big city of London.                                                                                                                                                        

 

Travelling with your partner? Discover 5 travel tips all couples should remember

Travelling with your partner can seem like the most romantic thing in the world. Until they lose the room key, misplace the passports or sleep in late and make you both miss your flight… Hitting the road with the person you love the most will certainly have its ups and downs and believe it or not travelling together will actually put your relationship to the test.

Travelling can make us tired and stressed, and with it constantly pushing us out of our comfort zones you’re going to need someone who’s got your back, someone who can make you feel at ease and someone who can support you when you’re feeling stressed. Not only that, but you’ll also want someone to enjoy all those incredible moments with, the incredible sights and experiences that only come with exploring the world – you can find out more about hotels with views of Niagara Falls by clicking the link – so, how do you ensure that you’ll still be together by the end of it?

Read on for 5 travel tips all couples should remember

Make time for yourself

Yes, you’re travelling as a couple, but when you’re at home you don’t spend every waking hour with each other. Having time to yourself during your travels is essential. It gives you time to reset, to pursue your own interests and hear your own thoughts! Perhaps you could enjoy a massage while your partner heads to a local café to catch up on a good book. What’s great is when you come back together, you’ll have plenty to talk about and after all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Get plenty of pictures

You won’t want to return home from the trip of a lifetime and only have pictures of your partner… Get involved and ask them to take pictures of you too! Taking pictures as a couple isn’t always easy so, invest in a tripod with a remote or ask a stranger to take some pictures of you together.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

So your partner accidentally spilt their drink all down your new dress. You’re wet, cold and wondering if you have anything else that’s clean… It’s normal to feel a little irritated, but try not to let a minor inconvenience boil over into a full-blown argument. Laugh where you can and take pleasure in all the hilarious stories you’ll get to tell when you’re back home.

Support each other

Your partner has a fear of heights but you’re desperate to try a little paragliding, instead of feeling let down by their concerns, encourage them to leave their comfort zone behind and try something new with you by their side. Regardless of their response, it’s important to always remain supportive and vice versa.

Budget!

Just like at home, the number one thing that couples argue about when travelling, is money! So, it’s important to set out a travel budget and stick to it! Have money set aside for activities, money for emergencies and a little extra for treating each other.

5 Tips For Bristol Family Flyers In 2020

Whilst Bristol does not have Britain’s biggest airport, it can still be a brilliant option if you’re based in Wales and the South West of England.

It serves a selection of desirable destinations – for instance, you can enjoy the world’s best craic and perfect pints of the black stuff in Dublin, fly to Edinburgh for a cultured weekend at its fabulous festival fringe or see the Northern Lights firsthand in Lapland.

However, if you’re flying in a family group, you’ll naturally want the experience to be as hassle-free as possible, so some prior research on the features and facilities is thoroughly recommended.

So stow away your meal trays, set your seat upright and fasten your safety belt for five tips for Bristol family flyers in 2020.

Food

Fly on an empty stomach and you’re at the mercy of whatever edibles are available on your flight and, depending on the carrier, the cost and quality of plane food are very variable. Meanwhile, if delays mean your pre-flight time is extended, empty stomachs can trigger the perfect storm if you’re travelling with troublesome teens.

Luckily, eating at Bristol Airport is an eclectic affair, with options including artisan coffees, posh sandwiches, tasty burgers and bombastic burritos – take your pick and banish those pesky hunger pangs.

Shopping

You won’t want to splash all of your spending cash before you get to your destination, but a spot of modest pre-flight retail therapy can work wonders when you need a bit of a mood boost before you board.

Luckily, you can shop til you drop at Bristol, with a wide choice of stores like Accessorize, JD Sports, Dixons, Superdrug, Claire’s and WH Smith available.

Lounge

The main airport concourse can get a bit hectic, especially when you’re travelling in a large family group, but pay a reasonable entry fee for Aspire Lounge access and you’ve got a private space where you and your tribe can relax in comfort, enjoy excellent food and drink and relax in complete comfort.

Chilling out at Bristol’s Aspire Lounge is a legendary start to any trip, and it’s more affordable than you may think.

Kids facilities

There are a lot of logistical considerations when flying with very young children, but luckily Bristol is well appointed with facilities that make parents’ lives easier, like baby changing facilities and handy pre-order service for baby food, nappies and milk.

Find out more details about Bristol’s children’s facilities at bristolairport.co.uk.

Airport parking

Getting to Bristol in your own vehicle can often be less stressful than navigating public transport, especially if you’re in a large family group with relatives in a wide range of ages.

So pre-book Bristol Airport parking from SkyParkSecure.com from home and you’ll be confident that your vehicle is safe for the duration.

That’s my list! Please share your own Bristol Airport tips in the comments section.

Memorable Thanksgiving Day Traditions To Make Your Day Special

As a Brit, it’s easy to be somewhat confused about the great American tradition of Thanksgiving which this year falls on Thursday 28 November. I’ve always seen it as almost an alternative Christmas celebration.  But what are Thanksgiving traditions all about? If you’re about to head off to spend time with friends or family before you pack your bags or apply for your ESTA travel authorization, here’s a quick reminder of the traditions that mean so much to so many.

What is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving Day goes back to the days when Europeans travelled to start new lives in America. In 1621 a group of Europeans, known as the ‘Pilgrims‘, invited the local Native Americans to join them in a feast at Plymouth Plantation.

This was to say thank you to the Native Americans for teaching them how to grow crops to survive.

Thanksgiving Traditions

When is Thanksgiving?

Traditionally, Thanksgiving is on the fourth Thursday of November. Sarah Josepha Hale (1788–1879) petitioned President Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving an official US holiday and he did so in 1863, proclaiming the fourth Thursday of November as the national holiday to celebrate that first Thanksgiving.

How is it celebrated?

The Big Meal

The most important of the Thanksgiving traditions is probably the meal. Most people have a big meal with all their family where, like Christmas dinner, the turkey is the centrepiece of the meal.  This is because it used to be believed the Pilgrims probably ate turkey at the first Thanksgiving feast.  Historians no longer believe that the be the case though.

Cranberry Sauce is also a favoured accompaniment, together with the ritual of ‘cracking the wishbone’ for luck.

For many people, the highlight of Thanksgiving dinner is dessert. Think lots of fresh-baked pies such as apple or pumpkin – topped with whipped cream or ice cream.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

Millions of people line the street in NYC each year wrapped up against the cold to see what has become a classic Thanksgiving tradition – the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and its great floats. Millions more watch the parade on TV in the morning.  (Macy’s is an American department store).

Families enjoy the huge floats, balloons and Disney characters with Santa appearing on the last float to herald the start of the Christmas season.

Thanksgiving Day Football

The playing of football on Thanksgiving Day was traditional among high schools and colleges and today the National Football League continues that tradition.

Since 1978, the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day games have traditionally included one game hosted by the Detroit Lions, and one game hosted by the Dallas Cowboys.

Thanksgiving Movies

After all that food, a popular alternative to football is to watch a Thanksgiving movie – such as The Miracle on 34th StreetPlanes, Trains & Automobiles or Home for the Holidays.  Anything with a feelgood theme that appeals to all the family is great.

Remember this if you’re travelling

As you might imagine, travel to and in the US at such a hugely important time needs to be planned well in advance and with the high numbers of travellers, delays are likely. But the start of the festive season offers so many great travel opportunities, especially Christmas shopping in New York which is certainly on my bucket list.

I must admit, it was only thanks to the Husband’s frequent trips to New York that I learned a visit stateside isn’t as simple as grabbing your passport and setting off!

Make sure you apply for an ESTA

Before you travel you will need a form of travel authorization called an ESTA (which stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization). This is an online application system developed by the US government to pre-screen travellers before they are allowed to board an aeroplane or ship bound for the United States.

And, if you are headed to the States, it is recommended that you make your ESTA application at least 72 hours prior to departure.

Travellers who have not registered will not be allowed to clear immigration and risk being detained and/or sent back home. In fact, travellers without ESTA approval may even be denied boarding at point of departure.

Whatever you do, make sure you allow enough time to get your application in.

But stay in touch if you’re at home

Even if you are thousands of miles apart, you can still be together — just virtually! Why not have a video call before dinner or Facetime family members when you are relaxing after dessert? You could even make it an annual family event.

I’ve even read of families who co-ordinate their mealtimes to say grace together or share the things for which they are most grateful.  That’s a lovely idea and a brilliant way to create a sense of togetherness, don’t you think?

Expressing gratitude as a family

Thanksgiving is, of course, all about gratitude and so much has been written about the importance of gratitude and how it can positively impact our lives, that it’s worth considering ways in which we can express thankfulness regularly.

Whether volunteering, inviting a friend into our home, donating to a favourite charity or sponsoring a local event, there are plenty of things we can do to give back and say thank you.

You don’t have to be religious to say a poem or prayer that resonates with you – or to share your positive experiences around the dinner table with the family.

We Brits could well do with a Thanksgiving Day of our own to lift our spirits before running headlong into the melee of Christmas.

However you choose to celebrate this Thanksgiving and the festive season, don’t forget that travel to our American cousins needs an ESTA so remember to sort yours out in plenty of time.

Happy Thanksgiving! Which are your favourite Thanksgiving traditions?

5 Great Christmas Holiday Spots For New Parents

Becoming a new parent, you may find that you don’t always have time to enjoy time together as a family. So, when the holiday season comes around, you should make the most of it!

The best destinations for babies and tots? With the help of Babythingz — a leading UK supplier of cute baby buggies — we’ve discovered the top child-friendly Christmas destinations for you to choose from, as well as providing a selection of tips for travelling with youngsters.

Edinburgh

As it’s slightly cooler up north, Edinburgh is a stunning place to enjoy a Christmas getaway. Visit here and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to family hotels and accommodation.

If you have infants as well as older kids, the city is perfect. As part of the spectacular Christmas markets, there are rides for children to enjoy and situated in the lower half of East Princes Street Gardens is Santa Land! Here, let your little ones be dazzled by the decorations and Christmas Tree Maze and let them ride on the Santa Train.

Cornwall

Staying in the UK is always a safe bet when looking for child-friendly destinations, as this cuts down your travelling times — beneficial if your little one is fussy or easily aggravated. So, how about Cornwall? The Cornish coast in south-west England is one of the country’s most beautiful, peaceful and exciting spots.

There is a choice of relatively-secluded cottages available to book in Cornwall, which is ideal for young families that have crying babies or playful and loud toddlers! Try to go for accommodation that offers you and your family space but is still within walking distance to activities to keep children entertained. At Christmas time, you can see Cornwall’s Christmas lights which children would enjoy, as the streets are illuminated with colour. Down by the harbour offers the perfect view.

You can also visit the Santa by Steam train, where children and adults can go on a journey with the railway elves to visit Santa’s grotto. Under 1s ride free and the journey only lasts an hour — not too long for fidgety little ones!

Disneyland Paris

Everybody loves Disney, especially around Christmas time! Although this destination may be best suited to kids around three years old and over, all children will enjoy the colours, lights and characters of Disneyland Paris. Plus, you have a collection of great, family-friendly Disney hotels to stay in, which will make travelling to and from the park much less stressful!

Disneyland Paris is a great holiday choice if you’re travelling with babies or excitable toddlers. At Disneyland Paris, you have a wide selection of shows, rides and attractions designed to captivate and entertain babies, toddlers and adults. Over Christmas, you can expect to see Disney’s Christmas Parade where everyone’s favourite characters make their way through the streets of the park. The ‘World’s Biggest Mouse Party’ also takes place, where children can meet and greet Santa and the Disney characters.

The Algarve

Portugal’s popular Algarve region can be reached in around two-and-a-half to three hours by plane. So, if you think your little one can handle the journey, treat yourself to a holiday abroad. Here, you can enjoy a warmer climate without having to worry about keeping your baby totally covered from the sun.

A popular holiday destination, the Algarve region has plenty of child-friendly resorts, hotels and activities that will suit kids from newborn to toddler. Since the autumn and winter season is a quieter time of year, it’s recommended that you travel to the larger resort towns such as Albufeira or Praia de Rocha, where not as many restaurants and activity centres will be closed.

Lapland

Is there anywhere better to take your children for a white Christmas than Lapland? This is more a destination for parents with infants, but if you do take your newborn, make sure they’re wrapped up warm. Here, you can visit the spectacular snow villages, meet the reindeers and say hello to Santa himself. Think of your children waking up to snow-covered trees outside on Christmas Day!

Although it can get very cold at this time of year though, so make sure that you do your research and pack what’s necessary to make sure that your tots stay cosy. There are many activities to do when you arrive in Lapland — from riding a snowmobile to taking a trip in a reindeer sleigh, it’ll certainly get everyone in the Christmas spirit.

Tips on travelling with kids

It can be a challenge getting to and from the car when you have a baby or toddler in tow. So, what can you do to make travelling on holiday less of an ordeal? Here are a few tips:

  • Give yourself plenty of time: if you’re late, you’ll stress yourself out and a fussy child will only add to the anxiety. So, start your holiday on a positive note by setting off early.
  • Have plenty of toys on hand: from the car ride to the airport to the plane journey itself, make sure you pack your child’s essentials — toys and games. Preferably, opt for quiet games that are best suited for public transport.
  • Think luggage: packing all the essentials for a baby or toddler can add a lot of extra weight to your luggage, so cut down where you can by opting for a lightweight buggy and travel-sized toys and sanitary products.
  • Check your booking: make sure you verify that the hotel is child-friendly with plenty of amenities for kids.
  • Comforts: don’t forget the little things that soothe your baby, like their favourite soft toy, blanket or even type of food. They may just help calm them down during long car rides.
  • Be careful with baby food and milk: you can carry baby milk and baby food through airport security in containers over 100ml, so make sure you prepare this before setting off.
  • Check in online: minimise the airport hassle by checking in over your laptop or phone prior to your day of travel.
  • Discuss the journey: if this is the first time your child is taking a long-distance journey, make the event seem positive and exciting by chatting them through what will happen — this may make them less apprehensive, especially if you’re flying.

Bear the above tips in mind to help make the journey just as good as the destination, too. Hopefully, this has inspired you to take that family holiday you’ve always wanted to go on this year!

Where To Enjoy London’s Festive Winter Activities For Families

Christmas time is undoubtedly the busiest time for year for anyone, from parties and events to shopping and seeing all your friends and family, it’s a hectic time of year. But, when you have kids, you know it can be even more stressful.

While you’ll still need to do everything else, you need to make sure you make the Christmas period magical for the little ones. One way to do this is to arrange a weekend away to the capital.

You may think this sounds like madness, but with so much winter fun to be had, you and the kids will love winter in London this year.

Plan the trip

Firstly, make sure you plan it all right. Don’t drive, it’ll be a nightmare to get in and out, and cause stress before the fun starts. Instead opt for a train or even a domestic flight, while your accommodation could be anything from budget hotels to Mayfair serviced apartments or something similar if you’re looking for luxury.

But, what to do when you’re there? If you’re going to arrange everything around this, below are five ideas of what to do when you’re there.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

The capital’s biggest festival returns November 21st, this is a must-see. From skating and Christmas market browsing to actual circus performances and the odd mulled beverage for the parents, this is a magical and marvellous place to visit. It does fill up quick though, so be sure to book tickets in advance.

Beasts of London

Explore London’s immersive history through the animals that played a role in shaping the city. The Museum of London always has a wealth of options but one of the most fascinating and engaging is this tour – from the Roman era through Medieval London culminating in our present-day – narrated by the several animals that have been a part of the capital’s history. Get ready for theatrical sets, audio-visual presentations and listen out for the many famous voices of these creatures.

This is one for the whole family to experience, lasts around 1h and is already open to the public, lasting till January 2020.

Ice skating

If ice skating was on your hit list, but Winter Wonderland sounds too hectic, there are plenty of other places to enjoy the ice. From Eyeskate at the London Eye to the rinks at Canary Wharf, Somerset House and Broadgate, there are plenty of places to choose from. You’ll even find ice skating at two historic royal places this year.

The Christmas tree

Of course, no trip to London at this time of year would be complete without a trip to see the Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square. Standing at 20 metres tall, these trees have been wowing crowds since 1947 and offers the perfect photo opportunity for the family.

London Christmas Market At South Bank by Heather Cowper

Christmas market at London South Bank by Heather Cowper

Christmas markets

No trip is finished without visiting a Christmas market. Again, if Winter Wonderland sounds too much, there are two more you can choose from. These include the one at London Bridge and the Tate Modern, which are both perfect for Christmas in London with the kids.

So, what are you waiting for? Get planning and enjoy the best Christmas with the family this year.

5 Underrated Theme Parks To Visit In The US

Booking a holiday to the United States can be a time consuming and expensive process if you don’t know where to start, but with some forward planning and organisation when it comes to organising your American Visa and renewing your passport, the trip is then a lot less stressful. In this article, we are going to be giving you some insight into 5 of the most underrated theme parks in the US!

Walt Disney Land – Los Angeles

One of the world’s most popular theme parks in the US is the Walt Disney resort in Orlando, but not many people know about the theme park in Los Angeles. Partly down to the lack of rides, this theme park if often overshadowed by its counterpart in Florida. However, this theme park was the first-ever Disneyland built and has a number of amazing rides as well as all your favourite characters all in one place. This gives you and the family hours upon hours of fun all in one place. In addition to this, there are a number of hotels on-site meaning that you can have the perfect Disney themed holiday with a package deal.

Bay Beach Amusement Park: Green Bay Wisconsin

Another theme park that is often overshadowed by the likes of Disneyland and Universal Studios is the Bay Beach Amusement Park in Wisconsin. This theme park has a number of rides for both adults and children making this the perfect all-round amusement park for the whole family. With the theme park being within walking distance of Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary and other hiking trails giving you the perfect all-round experience for you and your family.

Nickelodeon Universe: Minnesota

If your child is a big fan of all things nickelodeon then Nickelodeon Universe is the theme park for you. With a number of themed rides from popular Nickelodeon tv shows such as the fairly odd coaster and SpongeBob SquarePants Rock bottom Plunge, there are a number of rides for children of all ages as well as adults. This theme park is located in the Mall of America allowing you to have the rides for the children and multiple malls to spend time in whilst you shop till you drop.

Cedar Point – Ohio

With a number of hotels and campgrounds surrounding this theme park as well as a number of specialised overnight packages, you can spend time exploring Ohio as well as spending time on some of the best rides that this park has to offer. Whether you are spending time on one of the many roller-coasters or taking your kids on one of the many thrill rides, you can have the perfect day out regardless of where you decide to stay.

Knott’s Berry Farm, California

The final theme park that you can visit when spending time in the US is Knott’s Berry Farm in Los Angeles. This is one of the other popular theme parks in California that is perfect for the family. With a number of restaurants as well as a theme park and a dinner restaurant, you can have the perfect summer holiday trip without having to spend a small fortune.

Whether you are looking to book a holiday to the US in the near future or you are travelling in just a few weeks, you can have the time of your life when visiting one of these theme parks. Which will you be visiting during your trip?