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.
Oh wow, I was going on a trip to Swedish Lapland and Norway!! It was the first time I had ever travelled on my own but it was so easy as all the travel arrangements worked like clockwork. Getting up at 4am for my flight to Stockholm wasn’t fun but worth it for the chance to see the Northern Lights. I took a connecting flight from Stockholm to Kiruna and then was taken to the IceHotel. As it was September everywhere was very green and the countryside looked lovely.
The IceHotel 365 was only a year old when I visited but is a lovely structure which I imagine looks magical covered in snow in winter. The reception area is large and the staff were very welcoming. I was taken on a tour of the site which is much larger than I anticipated. There is the large reception block which also houses the restaurant. There’s a gift shop, arctic clothing store and lots and lots of cabins. The Kaamos cabins were stunning, very simple but they had everything you could wish for. The IceHotel 365 is situated near the bank of the River Torne. It’s an amazing piece of architecture, well thought out and a great substitute for the winter IceHotel. There is an Ice Bar too!
Across the road from the IceHotel complex is the Old Homestead restaurant. A great place to sit and relax and eat the most amazing food. After a visit to the reindeers and a short walk I went to the Ice Bar and had a fabulous blue cocktail in a glass also made of ice. The Ice Bar has some amazing sculptures and a stunning chandelier, also made of ice! At the entrance to the Ice Bar you are given Arctic Capes and gloves as it is very cold inside. They proved invaluable in keeping me warm whilst holding my ice glass and drinking my amazing cocktail.
After dinner at the Old Homestead is was time to turn in for bed but not before one last look for the Northern Lights! My Deluxe Art Suite was amazing, with subtle lighting to make the most of the intricate ice sculpting. The bed had a lovely comfy mattress covered in reindeer skins so I wouldn’t be sleeping directly on ice. The Suite had an interconnecting dressing room, accessed through a sort of air-lock corridor. This was so the heat from the dressing room didn’t melt the ice in the bedroom. The dressing room had underfloor heating, a sauna, shower, loo and wash basin and a dressing area. The dressing area was very simple with comfy chairs and somewhere to put your clothes and belongings. There was also a door to the outdoors so that guests could go out at night to catch the Northern Lights (just don’t forget the key to get back in!).
It had been a long exhausting day and I was absolutely shattered. I’d been given instructions on how to dress for bed and a sleeping bag with cotton liner. So, dressed in a nightdress (big mistake)and socks I made my way through to the bedroom and struggled, but managed, to get into the cotton liner and then into the sleeping bag. I think I fell asleep quite quickly but at some point woke with a very cold head. I had forgotten to take my hat in and wear it despite being advised to wear it. The dilemma then was do I get out of bed and get my hat risking the cold on the floor, or tough it out and hope to go back to sleep? I chose to try and get back to sleep, another big mistake.
In the morning I was woken by the staff with a most welcome hot lingonberry juice, just what was needed! Breakfast was taken in the Old Homestead too, a great selection of foods to fuel you for the day ahead.
An amazing stay at the IceHotel and a lesson learned; pyjamas are much more practical for bed and a hat is a definite must! The food in Sweden and Norway is exceptional, and perhaps not what you would necessarily be going for but a fantastic added bonus. It’s not all herrings and reindeer meat! Take a look at our very popular Ice Hotel & Abisko break giving you an excellent chance of seeing the Northern Lights as well as staying at the Ice Hotel
With Brexit now confirmed we wanted to update you. Travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein has changed.
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 3 months needed.
Please see a link below with further details and also a link for you to check your specific passport
For many travelling on the Venice Simplon Orient Express is on their bucket list and is a “Once in a Lifetime Special Experience”. For me I thought it would be an outstanding way to travel between two fabulous cities, but I did not expect the journey to be as unusual and as special as it was. I had not prepared myself to “step into another world”, and to enjoy the 24 hours as much as I did.
Your Steward will escort you to your cabin and whilst you settle into your home for the next 24 hours ease yourself into the mood with a glass of Prosecco.
It is a very different atmosphere from the busy, often manic, lives that many of us live. On the Venice Simplon Orient Express you will be forced to unwind and as a result have the time to enjoy beautiful craftsmanship, indulgent service and unexpected companionship.
Many people leave their cabin doors open during the journey in the daytime. Partly it is so as to not miss the scenery on the other side, but it is also a different way of “living”. There is a real companionship on the train and you will see people leaning in to have a chat as they pass by. It would feel positively rude to close your cabin door for the first couple of hours.
The food is quite exceptional. Right from the delicate afternoon tea that is served in your cabin by your Steward, to the exquisite dinners that are freshly prepared and served from the tiny kitchens, to the scrumptious croissants that you can eat whilst still in bed in the morning.
There is a wonderful amiable atmosphere in the 3674 bar carriage. This is where you are encouraged to dress up and you will see the range of 20’s flapper dresses with feather boas, black tie, Scottish Trewsers and sparkly full length dresses as well as the more usual suits and cocktail dresses. The pianist plays all the great classic hits such as “New York New York” on his baby grand piano and occasionally someone will burst into song to accompany. It almost has a jazz club feel.
This carriage is popular pre and post dinner and as people walk down with the train gently rocking you will find yourself “handed along” so that you don’t stumble. The carriage is lined with sofas and padded stools either side and you will quickly find people making space for you and yourself engaged in conversations with them.
Travelling on the Venice Simplon Orient Express does feel like “going back in time” – not only in style of the carriages but in how people act. The atmosphere facilitates connection and conversation. The fact that telephones are frowned upon in the restaurant and bar carriages means people instead engage with each other. I wasn’t able to make the WiFi work in my cabin, and for me this was a joy as it meant I could truly relax into the rhythm of the train.
There is a very special atmosphere that is hard to explain , but it felt very “in the moment” and your focus was totally on what was happening on the train, and what you could see through the window. Past and future issues were parked as you focused on your train community.
The recent “Murder on the Orient Express” movie did not fully show the glory and beauty of the Venice Simplon Orient Express train with it’s inlaid marquetry and Lalique glass, but it did showcase how the train “becomes a world and community” in its own right. In this day and age anything that can trigger that openness and willingness to engage and connect with strangers is to be treasured.
There are many different journeys that can be undertaken on the Venice Simplon Orient Express. I would personally recommend the Venice to Prague, Venice to Budapest or Venice to Vienna route as you have longer on the Orient Express train as the full journey is on the Orient Express train, rather than connecting with British trains (as the train is not allowed to run through the EuroTunnel), and you have 2 wonderful cities to visit and explore either side of the journey.
Of all the destinations we offer we get more requests from clients celebrating a wedding anniversary or big Birthday for a break to Lapland than any of our other destinations.
It’s really not difficult to see why as a trip to the Arctic for most people is once in a lifetime experience and so completely different to almost any other holiday they have been on before. After all if you are celebrating a silver wedding anniversary or a 40th or 50th Birthday then you want an experience that stands out from what you have done previously.
Who could not be captivated by the idea of being pulled through a pristine snowy wilderness by a team of eager to please Huskies or by the thought of staying in the world famous ICEHOTEL in an individually designed Art Suite? To crown it all of why not go Northern Lights hunting in Abisko in Swedish Lapland probably the best place on earth for consistent sightings of the Northern Lights.
In addition you have unique wildlife, the indigenous Sami culture centred on reindeer herding and all manner of unique settings from fjords to mountains and icebergs to volcanoes.
In terms of places to stay there are small lodges, wilderness cabins with private chef and the unique Tree Hotel with its quirky rooms such as the Mirror Cube, Birds Nest ad UFO! Whether you are travelling as a couple or bigger group to celebrate, we can suggest itineraries that fit best for your group size.
Click on this link to see our suggested breaks for celebrating a Special Occasion
If you truly want to make your special moment an amazing adventure, why not combine more than one country on your Arctic Northern Lights holiday adventure. We offer great combinations of Sweden and Norway, Iceland and Sweden and Iceland and Greenland for spectacular journeys that will be forever etched on the memory.
Click on this link to see some of our longer journeys
We have, over 14 years, built up the expertise to knit together arguably the best journeys possible in the region and have reams of feedback from satisfied clients over the years. If you have a special occasion on the horizon, then give us a call to see what we can do for you.
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!