Increasingly we are finding that people want to give Experiences rather than specific items as presents. Certainly we have personally found as we age and our house fills up with clutter we would much rather have a shared experience with a loved one, than be given yet more “stuff” to find a home for.
Many of our clients are booking holidays to celebrate a special occasion or milestone such as big birthdays with a zero on the end, significant anniversaries, as well as many proposals and honeymoons. The joy of this is that the giver often benefits from the experience as well! In this case the anticipation of the special occasion break adds to the experience with shared excited plotting and planning.
In other cases the gifter is arranging this trip in secret and we send the travel packs out to a different address so the game is not given away ! Then the surprise weekend break is given as a present on the big day, as people often do not actually travel on their special day so they can be at home with a wider group of family and friends.
The extreme surprise planners like to be away for the big moment and to try to get the recipient to the airport without knowing where they are going! This is always a bit trickier as the packing to some of our destinations such as attending a Venice Carnival Ball or going on a Northern Lights Trip in Swedish Lapland need a bit more thought than the usual weekend away!
Sometimes though it can be tricky if you are unsure of their date availability or their break preference and people prefer to give the idea as a present, and if it is well received then book it. The issue with that though is that availability may have gone in the meantime, and due to exchange rates and flight movement, we can only confirm the exact price for an exact date for 48 hrs and the price may have moved in the meantime. Both lead to an awkward situation!
Therefore the final option of gifting a voucher to a certain value is a good option for a special occasion break gift. This option lets the recipient choose themselves where and when they wish to go to. With over 19 countries on offer across our 4 websites, and with breaks ranging from travelling on the luxury Maharajas Express in India, to going to see the spectacular Verona Opera in the Roman amphitheatre, to Whale Watching in Iceland or an exotic Safari to see the Migration there is bound to be something that appeals!
Gift vouchers are also a popular way for friends to buy a present, or as a retirement gift, as everyone can contribute the amount they wish, and it is surprising how quickly this adds up to give someone a unique and memorable special occasion break.
These vouchers are valid for 3 years and can be topped up by the recipient if they wish to go on a more expensive break than you had intended.
So if you are thinking of gifting a Special Occasion Break do give us a ring on 01722 744695 or take a look at our 4 websites; Aurora Nights, Italian Short Breaks, Weekend a La Carte and Safari Addicts for inspiration.
With Brexit now confirmed we wanted to update you, especially as there is still a possibility we could Brexit without a deal. Travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein will change if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.
You may need to renew your British passport earlier than you anticipated if you’re travelling after Brexit. The new rules will apply to passports issued by the UK, Gibraltar, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey.
On the day you travel, you’ll need your passport to both:
If you renewed your current passport before the previous one expired, extra months may have been added to its expiry date. Any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the 6 months needed.
Please see a link below with further details and also a link for you to check your specific passport
Driving Licence Requirements
In the event that there is no EU Exit deal, the government will seek to put in place new arrangements for EU and EEA countries to recognise UK driving licences when people are visiting, for example on holiday or business trips. Until such arrangements are in place, UK driving licence holders may need an IDP in addition to their UK driving licence to drive when visiting EU and EEA countries.
Each EU and EEA country will decide if they require a foreign driver to have an IDP, in addition to a driving licence, to legally drive in their country.
There are three different types of IDP (International Driving Permits) covering different countries so if you already have one please check it is the correct one for the country you are travelling to.
For example –
Italy, Norway, Sweden – 1968
Iceland – 1949
It is very easy to get a IDP from a Post Office (There are 2,500 that issue them in the UK). You would need to take with you a passport photo, your plastic photocard driving licence and we would recommend taking a second Photo ID such as your passport as well. It costs £5.50 and it is issued there and then over the counter. We would strongly recommend if driving in Europe (including Norway and Iceland) you get one as the local suppliers are also not clear if they will need them or not. For example in Iceland one car hire company think they may not need them, another one says they will need them. For the sake of £5.50 it seems an easy decision for peace of mind for your trip, and as we would not be able to help overrule this requirement if on arrival it is required we do recommend you get one.
Please see the link below with further details, as well as the ability to search for you nearest issuing Post Office.
Petersburg has so much to offer in terms of stunning palaces nearby such as Peterhof, The Peter and Paul Fortress with its dramatic spire, beautiful art at the Hermitage and of course it’s world renown ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre.
Saint Petersburg city has changed its name several times. It was founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703 as Petersburg. In 1914, the name was changed from to Petrograd, in 1924 to Leningrad, and only in 1991 back to Saint Petersburg again. Between 1713 – 1728 and 1732 – 1918, Saint Petersburg was the imperial capital of Russia meaning that there are various beautiful Imperial Palaces to view. In fact it was only in 1918 that the government bodies moved to Moscow.
Petersburg is situated on the lowlands along the shores of the Neva Bay and Neva River, and islands of the river delta and is therefore criss-crossed with canals and rivers. We would recommend a great introduction to the city is to take a river cruise where you can see many of the Palaces on the shoreline.
It you were looking for the top tips on things to do in St Petersburg we would recommend the following.
The Hermitage museum contains one of the largest art collections in the world. Commissioned by Catherine the Great the Hermitage houses over three million items which of course cannot all be on show; the highlights of the collection are the Italian masterpieces, French Impressionists and the Russian Royal family jewellery including the Faberge collections. It can get incredibly busy in the summer with lengthy queues, and we are thrilled to have managed to organise for our Weekend a La Carte clients the unique opportunity to enter 1hr earlier than the masses so you can admire the world-famous paintings in piece and calm.
Peterhof Palace and Gardens
This world renowned palace is most famous for its fountains in its gardens. In the summer 176 fountains play in the gorgeous gardens making it a very special and peaceful visit. Traffic in St Petersburg is becoming notorious so we suggest you return to St Petersburg by hydrofoil which is a pleasant journey in itself, as well as avoiding the jams.
Peter and Paul Fortress
The Peter and Paul Fortress is now the final resting place for most of the Romanov emperors including Nicolas II, who was executed with his family in 1918 and who was very recently reburied here, and is a must for first time visitors to this city.
Catherine’s Palace and Pavlovsk
This is a must to see the extraordinary amber room where over 100,000 perfectly fitted pieces of amber adorn the walls of the room. Originally constructed in the 18th century it covered more than 55m2 and contained over 6 tons of Amber. The Amber Room disappeared during World War Two with its current whereabouts still remaining a mystery. Decades of work culminated in its recreation and unveiling in 2003.
Pavlovsk was the last of the imperial estates to be built and has an elegant simplicity in contrast to the much more decorated and Catherine’s Palace.
Leningrad Defence Museum
Not on the usual tourist route but for those looking to learn more about history then we would recommend a visit to the Leningrad Defence museum which is a memorising and shocking account of the resilience and ingenuity of the citizens of the city during the 1000 days Nazi’s siege during the second world war.
A trip to St Petersburg would not be complete without a visit to see the famous Ballet in one of the three theatres The Hermitage, The Mikhailovsky and the most famous The Mariinsky. The Mariisnky has a very full Ballet Schedule which has been released up to May 2017. Covering some of the traditional ballets such as Swan Lake, Giselle, Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, there are also some more unusual Ballets for the experienced Ballet goer and we can organise tickets in the very best seats.
The White Nights
Finally for those looking for something even more special we would recommend you travel to St Petersburg during the White Nights which usually lasts from June 11th to July 2nd when the sun does not descend beneath the horizon enough for the sky to grow dark. Indeed the authorities do not turn on the city’s streetlights at all! This is because of St Petersburg very northerly geographical location – approximately the same as the southern tip of Greenland.
Indeed it is easy to understand why St Petersburg is again voted the European Destination of the year! For inspiration see our Russia Breaks
There are three main types of travel. The first are the beach holidays. Flights, car hire and a hotel/villa and you’re all set. These are great for when you just want to get away and have a relaxing break. They are perfect for those that don’t want to plan and just decide as they go what they do with tomorrow. This is the sort of trip for someone who wants to keep full control of their schedule. They are simple, easy trips. Pick a beautiful location and half an hour on Expedia, and it’s all done.
The second category is the full set tour package. Whether it is a case of you travelling alone, wanting to meet new people, or whether you are just unsure how to put together everything you want to do, these are the breaks for those wanting someone else to plan out the A’s to B’s. It could be a case of too much to organise or just not knowing how. City breaks are easy to organise, but how about a trip to the arctic on a northern lights holiday? How do you organise a husky sled tour? Or maybe you are travelling around. Organising a trip to Golden Triangle India trip say, would be quite daunting for most people. This is where the tour package excels; it gives you effortless travel without the worry. Trying to arrange this sort of trip would feel like a comparison search for new car insurance at the end of the day, and that rather defeats the point of a wonderful holiday!
But there is a downside to the second category. What if you don’t get on with everyone in the group and you spend part of your coach or cruise trying to avoid set people? Also, it means many early starts, which feels contradictory taking into account that for a few days/week etc. you want to escape the alarm clock! Lastly, whilst you’re happy to get up early for a tour you are looking forward to, there are always parts of the ground programme you have no interest in, and that’s when getting out of bed early, packing the case and checking out of your hotel to be driven to the next place, just feels like too much hard work.
Onto category three. At Weekend a la Carte most of our clients have done many of the previous types of trips, and they know what they want. This includes hassle-free travel and to be looked after, but not to be part of a group and have no say on their itinerary. Everything we do is bespoke travel, reaching from an African Big 5 Safari, Venice Carnival package, Northern Lights trips, to city breaks. We know you want control of your holiday, but we also know you want someone else to work on the finer details. Most of our travellers are celebrating special birthdays and wedding anniversaries. These are our forte. We know how to make your trip special. You won’t be waiting for others to get on the bus, we won’t take you places you have no interest in, your hotel won’t be away from all the local sights.
The travel dates, hotels and duration are for you to decide. We are very flexible! We have many clients who want us to arrange ground only and then leave them to their devices, and if you want a second tiger safari on your Golden Triangle India holiday or a second night at the Verona opera, we can do this. We have been doing it for thirteen years, and are constantly looking at ways to improve our breaks, extensions being one of the main ways. We really do have something for everyone. Why not take a look?
Weekend a la Carte – a chocolate box of trips including Slovenia, Russia, Prague, Jordan, Morocco and Vienna.
Aurora Nights – Northern Lights inspired trips to Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Greenland.
Italian Short Breaks – Verona Opera, Venice Orient Express Train, Venice Carnival and the Siena Palio.
Big 5 Safaris – South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia.
Now the only hard part is for you to decide where your next adventure takes you!