Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Place for Christmas with a winter holiday

It’s that time of the year when the atmosphere’s getting a little frosty – and that’s just the feeling around the kitchen table. So the greatest gift you can give this Christmas to your loved ones is a positive frame of mind. What’s the best way of achieving that Zen-like state? Treat yourself to a chilled out summer holiday in winter and come back before the big festive day relaxed and ready to take on anything – even your miserable mother-in-law.

You don’t have to break the bank to go away in winter, either. In fact, there are so many cheap holidays on offer at the moment, you can spend a week on the exotic island of Cyprus and still have money left over. Added bonus: the souvenirs from your beach holiday make for awesome Christmas presents.

Holidays to Cyprus can be the gift you give to yourself. This time of year the sea temperature is an average of 18 degrees – not too hot and not too cold. Ultimate swimming temperature.

With an average winter temperature of 19 degrees, it’s still warm enough for you to spend time in the villages in only a vest top, and it’s the perfect weather for strolling along the pebbly Paphos beach or exploring the Akamas Peninsula and Troodos Mountains. And if you’re a bit of a culture vulture, Cyprus also offers a myriad of ancient ruins dating back to the 12th century BC, fortresses, Roman remnants and impressive tombs, such as the Tombs of the Kings.

Let’s start with cheap flights. A quick pre-Christmas escape from Gatwick to Paphos can set you back as little as £118.

Cyprus offers numerous accommodation options too. Everything from the luxurious five-star Elysium Hotel in Paphos to the Club Coral View Resort in Peyia.

If you’re an ancient history buff, or you like the sound of Arabian deserts, romantic sunsets, majestic ancient temples and camels in abundance, then holidays to Egypt are well within your budget.

At this time of the year, flights are cheap and there are some bargain accommodation packages too. The Pyramids Park Resort in Cairo has rooms from £17 a night and is just a five minute walk from the pyramids.

Capital city Cairo is a great place to start exploring if it’s your first time to Egypt. The pyramids and Sphinx are on your doorstep; the Cairo museum is bursting with ancient artefacts, such as the astonishing gold of Tutankhamen; and the Khan el-Khalili, Cairo’s famous and iconic bazaar, is the perfect place for Christmas shopping.

Luxor also offers the nearby Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. However, the country is not just tombs, museums and temples. For example, Alexandria Coast is known for some of the best beaches and scuba-diving in the world.

There is so much you’ll want to do when you get to Egypt, so plan your trip wisely. If the purpose of your holiday is exactly that – a holiday – then be selective with your activities. Remember, you don’t have to do it in one visit! Downtime is important. You can (and will) always come back.

Wherever you decide to go this Christmas, don’t think of it as a splurge – think of it as a well-deserved Christmas present to yourself that will put a smile on your face and help get you through any Christmas-related tensions with grace.

Dream trip and saving your money

It’s deep midwinter, the fire is flickering, and in the flames you can see your future: a beach in Bali, whales breaching off Alaska, the Namib Desert by moonlight.

It may be a comforting vision when darkness falls at 4pm each day. But first you have to get there.

It’s sensible to start putting away a regular amount out of your income each month. Set up a standing order when your salary lands and you’ll hardly notice the money has gone. Research your trip thoroughly, and use the plethora of travel websites to plan your route. It costs a lot less to book all your flights ahead, and if possible, your accommodation too, even if you may fancy wandering free as a bird.

Budget for each leg of the trip carefully. If you have paid as much ahead as you possibly can, you can then give yourself a daily budget and predict much more accurately what that spend will be.

There are online calculators to help you plan your costs for each country plus the connecting flights, such as this one onwww.savingfortravel.com. Have some fun researching online – these tips from The Guardian don’t only apply to gap year travellers – and browse through the major guides, such as the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide series, which are excellent on budget travel.

Once you have an idea how much it’s all going to cost, then work out how much you can practically save each month. It may involve sacrifices – no concert tickets perhaps for that favourite band, no drinks after work with colleagues, taking a packed lunch to work and giving up that expensive cappuccino you pick up on the way to work. If you take each regular cost and work out what it comes to each year, you will very likely be astonished at how even small amounts add up. That fancy coffee? Just one each working day (taking four weeks’ holiday into account) at £2.10 will come to an astonishing £504. That sandwich at £3.50 a day? Brace yourself. That’s £840 a year. So just by bringing lunch from home and making coffee in the office, you’ve gained £1,344 a year. Just think how far that would take you!

It’s also worth spending some time planning what you are going to pack. A good backpack will be worth its weight in gold, so see which ones get the best reviews before you buy. Seasoned travellers are worth asking for advice: they will each have their recommendations, from head torches (hands free for putting up a tent in the dark) to lightweight microfibre towels.

While you’re away one of the safest ways to pay will be a credit card. Make sure you have made arrangements for the bills to be paid in your absence by setting up a direct debit from your current account. If you’ll be making a lot of payments via credit card, aBarclays purchase credit card could provide the best rates for your spending pattern.

Many countries don’t take debit cards, so credit cards are a widely accepted option. Unless you’re trekking through the Sahara of course. So before you go, apply for a credit card and you couldconsider balance transfer credit cards or one of many other options available in the market (click here for more info on Barclays credit cards).

A credit card may be a good way of spreading your payments, but bear in mind that you will be charged interest if you do not pay off your balance in full, and late or missed payments may mean you lose any promotional rates and affect your credit rating.

This article has been written for information and interest purposes only and should not be construed as advice or used to make financial decisions. Expert financial advice should always be sought and any links contained within this article are included for information purposes only. Links to third party websites are not an endorsement by us of products and services on such websites. You have entered a website owned and operated by and will be subject to their website’s terms and conditions.